English Leicester sheep

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A Leicester Longwool at Colonial Williamsburg

English Leicester is an English breed of sheep. Alternative names for the breed include: Leicester, Bakewell Leicester, Dishley Leicester, Improved Leicester, Leicester Longwool, and New Leicester. They were originally developed by 18th-century breeding innovator Robert Bakewell.[1]

It is now one of Britain's rarest breeds, categorised as "endangered" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, since fewer than 500 registered breeding females remain in the United Kingdom.[2]


Leicester ram at the 1843 Royal Agricultural Show in Derby

English Leicester sheep date back to the 1700s, and were found in the Midland counties of England. It was developed by Robert Bakewell, who was the foremost exponent of modern animal-breeding techniques in the selection of livestock. The English Leicester in the 1700s was slow-growing and coarsely boned. They now have been developed to gain weight quickly and are fast-growing. English Leicester was one of the first pure sheep breeds introduced to Australia, having been introduced in 1826. The English Leicester has been used to improve many sheep breeds because of its meaty carcase (carcass) and heavy fleece. It is one of the few truly pure breeds.


Traditional white Leicester lambs

The head of an English Leicester should be carried well, not too high and should have no signs of horns on the poll (forehead). The face is generally in a wedge shape, covered in white hairs and can appear to have a blue tinge. The lips and nostrils should be black. Having black specks on the face and ears is not objectionable. The neck should be of medium length. The shoulders should be strong and level with the back, which should be flat. The legs should be straight and wide apart and the hooves should be black.

The fleece should be dense (having thick and blocky clumps of wool also known as the staple). It should be lustrous, indicating the shine on the wool, and should have a well-defined crimp or wave from skin to tip. The common fibre diameter for an English Leicester is 32 to 38 micrometres (microns).

The English Leicester should be free, active and well balanced while in movement. It should appear to be alert and robust, showing style and character.

Other information[edit]

English Leicester sheep are currently found in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States. They are sound-footed, which means they are acceptable on flat, hilly or more especially marginal country. They are large-framed with wide, even toplines (backs), strong constitutions and good temperaments.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Leicester Longwool". Breeds of Livestock. Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Animal Science. Archived from the original on 2010-06-05. Retrieved 2010-09-08. 
  2. ^ "Leicester Longwool". Sheep. Rare Breeds Survival Trust watch list. Archived from the original on 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 

External links[edit]