Rare breeds manage our natural pastures extremely well, providing grazing that is both productive yet in balance with the environment. Not only do they graze on the right sort of plants, but often they are lighter than mainstream breeds and do less damage to the ground in poor weather.
Rare breeds tend to offer a smaller, less commercial confirmation, but they make up for it in flavour, succulence and eating quality. Each different breed of sheep has its own intrinsic wool characteristics. Some grow negligible wool, while others have very long fleeces. Some fine wools can be worn comfortably by babies, whilst strong wools can last for centuries. Both my breeds of sheep offer very different characteristics for wool production and are ideally suited to products such as cushions, sheepskin rugs & my other homewares products.
My Portlands are a small, primitive breed, which has long inhabited the Isle of Portland off the Southern coast of England. They are hardy and thrifty, used to surviving on sparse grazing. Happy to eat rough grasses and browse on shrubs, it makes them ideal for conservation grazing. Lambs are born a russet red however this fades as the sheep age – the face and legs become a distinctive tan colour whilst the fleece is cream. They have stunning curled horns. The meat is known for its delicious flavour – it was recorded that George III was a fan of the Mutton. Their versatile fleeces make fantastic worsted-weight yarns, and the wool’s warm white tones nicely enhance dye colours.
Castlemilk Moorits are one of the larger primitive breeds. They were originally bred in the early years of the 20th century on the ‘Castlemilk Estate’ in Dumfriesshire. Using Manx Loghtan, moorit Shetland and wild Mouflon, a breed was developed light brown in colour with definite mouflon pattern markings. Their meat is very lean, slow maturing with high quality, superbly flavoured meat. They are renown for their excellent fleece, tight and even throughout. It is naturally bleached at the tips and darker at the base and when I have it processed into my chunky yarn, it is left its natural milk chocolate colour.