Scottish Blackface

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Scottish Blackface
Conservation status
Other names
  • Blackface
  • Lanark Blackface
  • Linton
  • Northumberland Blackface
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Wool colourwhite
Face colourblack, sometimes with white markings
Horn statushorned
A ram in about 1890

The Blackface or Scottish Blackface is a British breed of sheep. It is the most common sheep breed of the United Kingdom. Despite the name, it did not originate in Scotland, but south of the border.[4]: 156 


The origins of the breed are uncertain. It originated south of the Anglo-Scottish border, and did not arrive in the Highlands of Scotland until the second half of the eighteenth century.[4]: 157  It replaced the earlier Scottish Dun-face or Old Scottish Shortwool, a Northern European short-tailed sheep type probably similar to the modern Shetland.[4]: 156 

There are several types of Blackface in the United Kingdom, including the Perth variety, which is large-framed and coarse-woolled, and found mainly in north-east Scotland, in Devon, in Cornwall and in Northern Ireland; the medium-framed Lanark type, with shorter wool, found in much of Scotland and in parts of Ireland; and the Northumberland Blackface, which is large with relatively soft wool.[5]


The Blackface is always horned. The face and legs are black, sometimes with white markings.[6]: 43 


The Blackface is reared principally for meat production,[2] usually through cross-breeding. Blackface ewes are commonly put to Blue-faced Leicester rams to produce the Scottish Mule or Scottish Greyface. Ewes of this cross-breed retain some characteristics of each parent – maternal qualities and hardiness from the dam, and fecundity and meat quality from the sire – and are much used in commercial lowland sheep-rearing.[6]: 43 [7]: 906 

The wool is very coarse, with a fibre diameter of 28–38 μm and a staple length of about 250–350 mm.[8] It may be used for mattresses, for carpets, or to make tweed.[6]: 43 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, Dafydd Pilling (editors) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Archived 23 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b Breed data sheet: Blackface / United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Sheep). Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed December 2022.
  3. ^ Watchlist 2022–23. Kenilworth, Warwickshire: Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Archived 28 September 2022.
  4. ^ a b c M.L. Ryder (1968). Sheep and the Clearances in the Scottish Highlands: A Biologist's View. Agricultural History Review 16 (2): 155–158. Archived 9 March 2006.
  5. ^ The Blackface Breed. Blackface Sheep Breeders Association. Accessed November 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Susannah Robin Parkin (2015). British Sheep Breeds. Oxford: Shire Publications. ISBN 9780747814481.
  7. ^ Valerie Porter, Lawrence Alderson, Stephen J.G. Hall, D. Phillip Sponenberg (2016). Mason's World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding (sixth edition). Wallingford: CABI. ISBN 9781780647944.
  8. ^ Scottish Blackface. Directory of U.S. Sheep Breeds. American Sheep Industry Association, Production, Education and Research Council. Archived 19 July 2011.