Black Welsh Mountain sheep are a heritage breed of sheep native to Great Britain. They are the only true black sheep in Britain and derived from Welsh Mountain sheep in the mountains of Wales. About 100 years ago, shepherds began breeding black sheep together selecting for color but also for finer fleece and better body confirmation. The result was the Black Welsh Mountain breed which was recognized in 1922.
This breed of sheep are small to medium in size with the adults weighing only 100-130lb. There is no restriction on breed height – most adults mature around 20-30 inches at the shoulder. They are raised for both fleece and meat – and are considered the prime rib of lamb. Rams have beautifully shaped horns that achieve a full curl and ewes are polled. Tails must remain undocked and long in registered animals.
They are a dual purpose breed raised for both meat and wool. The meat is mild and is considered to be the prime rib of lamb. Wool from this breed is short, thick, and densely stapled. The staple length is 5-10 cm, and the fiber diameter ranges between 28-36 microns. The fleece weight per clip is three to five pounds. Black Welsh Mountain wool is desired by handspinners and it’s natural black color allows it to be used undyed.
Black Welsh Mountain sheep are considered threatened as a breed with a population of less than 5000 in Great Britain as of 2012 (www.livestockconservancy.org). The breed was introduced into the United States in 1972 and the US registry was established in 1990 (www.blackwelsh.org). Currently there are about 50 flocks in the USA consisting of around 1500 animals.
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