The Teeswater sheep is one of the UK’s rarest breeds and originates in Teesdale in England.
A dual-purpose breed, the Teeswater is not only reared for meat production but also for the fiber markets also. This is due in part to the large-diameter fibers produced by the breed. It is thought that the breed have been bred in the north of England for well over 200 years.
Originally, Teeswater sheep populations began to decline in the 1920’s. This led to the breed becoming quite rare, though it witnessed a resurgence in populations since the end of the Second World War. The maiden Teeswater Sheep Breeder’s Association was subsequently formed in 1949 with the aim of promoting and encouraging the breeding of the Teeswater breed. It was also aimed at maintaining the genetics of the breed.
The breed remains rare to this day and has been listed as “vulnerable” by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Some have suggested that the breed was originally brought to the UK via the Romans, along with other long-wooled breeds. There are also records of the breed being exported to Tasmania as far back as the early 1800’s.
A large sheep breed with a truly unique appearance, the Teeswater are a long and tall breed.
They are most famed for their fleece, which is long and curly. The Teeswater are also unique in that they have a topknot over their face, one of their famed characteristics. Their fleece, which has a large diameter, rarely has any dark fibres and is usually uniform in colour and texture all over.
Their fleece is also kemp-free and as is the breed standard, wools from the Teeswater breed should be clean with an open staple lustre wool, which is not too strong and medium in length. Fleeces usually weigh an average of 4-8kgs, with a staple length of 20-30cms.
Their heads are usually coloured off-white or grey or light brown, with dark markings usually found surrounding the ears and nose. A polled breed, neither rams or ewes have horns. As mentioned, the Teeswater are primarily raised for their meat, though they are also used in fibre production and for the production of crossbred ewes.
At full maturity, a Teeswater ram generally weighs up to 120kgs, with ewes usually averaging 90kgs. The Teeswater is a lean sheep, with well-developed hindquarters, making it suited to meat production. Lambs are also fast growers and can reach as much as 20kgs by two months old.
A hardy and extremely strong breed, the Teeswater breed are also known for their excellent temperament. They are extremely docile, while ewes make excellent mothers. Ewes are also very prolific with a rate of 200%.
A breed almost wiped from the face of the earth less than 100 years ago. One of the UK’s rarest breeds and also one of the most uniquely beautiful, the Teeswater.
Pictures Credit - Teeswater Sheep Breeders Association.