We Three Sheep…
Christmas is a time for relaxing in the warmth and comfort of our homes, surrounded by the people, pets and possessions that make us feel most happy. At British Wool, we thought that this blog should reflect the gift that home grown British wool brings to the homes we live in, not just at this wonderful time of year but throughout the year.
So, in the spirit of Christmastide, we have crowned three British sheep breeds for the month of December in honour of the wonderful wool they provide to our world! Two of the sheep breeds featured are the most commonly crossed pure bred sheep in the UK and the third is the resulting cross breed - so our blog is also about family - which is what the Christmas season is all about!
When you drive across the hills and moors in Yorkshire, you will often see the Swaledale sheep. It is a strong, bold sheep that thrives in the harsh surroundings and shakes off wind and rain without a shiver. It is a distinctive sheep that has a dark upper head and a grey muzzle with low set horns on both male and females.
Swales, as they are often called, grow a creamy fleece that is thick and bulky providing a handle that leans towards coarse, This wool, is classified as mountain breed type and will find its way in to some of the best carpets in the world . Luxurious woven axministers and tufted twist ranges providing hotels and homes with warmth and comfort and due to that bulk - incredible bounce-back.
The Bluefaced Leicester
The haughty Roman nose of the tall Bluefaced Leicester sheep makes it seem almost disdainful of humankind! Maybe they are aware that they have wonderful demi-lustrous wool and at 26 microns - also the finest wool available in the UK for cloth and knitwear.
The breed is also an influential sire - a reason why you will find them in small numbers on farms across the UK now, although the breed was evolved for crossing purposes in the Tyne and Wear Valleys and Cumbria in the 18thcentury. Soft, fine and silky, the wool from this breed is highly sought after - it is often used to replace Mohair and will be found in knitting yarns, knitted textiles and quality cloth.
The North of England Mule
The Mule, despite its name, is now found all over the UK but particularly on the hills in the North. It is a favourite of British sheep farmers and is the most popular commercial breed. It is a cross breed - the result of the Swaledale ewe crossed with the Bluefaced Leicester ram. Easy to shepherd and bearing many of the benefits of their parentage, the Mule is hardy, strong and long-living. Easily identified by its distinctive mottled wool-free face, it grows a creamy white, curly wool with great crimp and resilience to pressure and so, like its Mother’s wool, will find its way to good quality carpet.
When you walk cosy and barefoot about the house or sit by the fire-side on your wool carpet and rug this Christmas - remember the humble sheep that grows the fibre. Grazing freely, all the while staunchly growing British Wool - their crowning glory every year. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a warm and woolly New Year!