The Derbyshire Gritstone sheep breed

Origins of the Breed

 

The Derbyshire Gritstone is one of the oldest of the British Hill Breeds and originated on the hills of the Dale of Goyt (now better known as the Goyt Valley) on the edge of the Peak District around the year 1770.  It was known in its early years as the Dale O'Goyt sheep, and is thought it was developed by crossing the native limestone sheep with the Whitefaced Woodland which is still a recognised breed to this day. The breed was further improved from 1810 onwards by the introduction of Merino rams which were imported by the Duke of Devonshire from Spain to be used by his tenants’ in their flocks that grazed the High Peak area

 

By about 1850 the farmers in the locality were establishing uniformity in the breed and were aiming for a hardy, disease resistant animal that could withstand the harsh winters on poor ground, produce a lively lamb, which grew well to produce a good carcass and a saleable wool crop. Over the next 50 years the breed spread further into the Peak District and by 1909, when the breed was first described in an agricultural encyclopaedia, it ‘possessed adequate size and vigorous constitution... that they are exceptionally hardy and wiry, possessing a priceless immunity from ills that pale-faced sheep are heir to in the lowlands, and endowed with persistent energy common to the denizens of bleak and ruthless mountainous districts’

 

Bred to be adaptable to the difficult and rigorous environment of the wild rugged country, the Derbyshire Gritstone has the capacity to thrive and produce lively lambs which, on ewes with highly developed mothering qualities and a good milk flow ensures a carcass of high class, prime quality, lean mutton. The Derbyshire Gritstone compares favourably with other hill breeds of like stature, and having a lambing percentage of 1.45 the breed produces lamb meat in quantity.

 

The docile nature and hardiness of the breed is ideal for smallholders, especially those who wish to produce and spin the wool produced.  The fleece of the Derbyshire Gritstone is the finest of all the black faced sheep and historically it was used for fine hosiery. In recent years fleeces have won many prizes including overall champion fleece at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Hardy and robust, the Derbyshire Gritstone is a handsome sheep of aristocratic lineage, big, flat-boned, strong and alert with a vigorous constitution. It is agile and neatly proportioned, compact and strong placed shoulders on a well-balanced frame of good lines.

 

Clean-cut black and white marked face and legs clear of wool, it is a sturdy animal. The body is well-woolled, the fleeces uniform and dense, of good colour, weather resistant, and clean in the skirts. It clips with a definite staple formation of medium length of 52's to 56's quality count suitable for the manufacture of high-class knitwear.

 

Its hardiness and good looks, health and early maturity, growth and fineness of coat and ability to forage food on the poorest grazings make the present day Derbyshire Gritstone a most profitable sheep. The breed provides the ideal genetic material as it is polled in both sexes, lives under hill conditions and is the ideal colour. It is strong and adaptable and consequently retains the natural hardiness in the native hill breeds

 

Although the Derbyshire Gritstone was developed in the Peak District the breed has proved its adaptability and can now be found in the surrounding counties of Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire as well as areas further afield such as the mountains of Wales, Scotland (including the outer islands) and Northern Ireland.

The docile nature and hardiness of the breed is ideal for smallholders, especially those who wish to produce and spin the wool produced.  The fleece of the Derbyshire Gritstone is the finest of all the black faced sheep and historically it was used for fine hosiery. In recent years fleeces have won many prizes including overall champion fleece at the Great Yorkshire Show.

 

www.derbyshiregritstonesheep.com

 

 

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