~ History of the Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep ~
The Southdown sheep is one of the oldest of the English sheep breeds, originating on the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. In 1780 John Ellman realised the potential of the sheep with their hardy nature, small stature and flavoursome and tender meat and began to standardise the breed. By 1908 there were around 367 flocks numbering about 110,000 ewes. The development slowed with the coming of World War I and by the end of World War II, the demand for larger cuts of meat almost forced the Southdowns into extinction.
A similar situation occurred in the United States where again the small sheep could not satisfy consumer demand for meat. This trend was the beginning of what would eventually become two distinct lines in the breed......the Modern Southdown and the Original Southdown and before long many of the original "miniature" traits were almost bred out. The Original Southdowns may have been lost altogether if not for a gentleman by the name of Robert Mock, who in 1986, began searching for sheep with the original bloodlines of the 1700s. They were difficult to find and after four years the number only totalled 26 sheep, hardly enough for a gene pool. After searching further, he found another 350 sheep, some with the original Southdown registration papers. To distinguish them from the Modern Southdowns, Mr Mock named them Olde English Babydoll Southdowns and thus these cute little sheep made a return.
In Australia, when the Southdown breeders moved towards a larger framed sheep with longer neck and legs, the Metcalf brothers continued with the smaller framed original Southdown that for decades had served them well. They handed the reins to their flock over to Murray and Judy Peart who also continued with this line. It was very fortunate they did as otherwise these genetics could have been lost for all time. The genetics from Murray and Judy's Hillgrove flock are the ones we are continuing to preserve today.
~ Wool ~
Olde English Babydoll fleece is a Downs fleece; short stapled at about 5-7.5cm and running into the 23 to 29 micron range. It has more barbs per inch than any other wool type so is perfect for blending with other fibre, particularly the slippery and flyaway ones such as silk and angora. Once spun it has plenty of elasticity. It does not wet felt well but is perfect for needle felting and makes a durable yarn that is perfect for socks, hats and mittens.
~ Babydoll Sheep Attributes ~
The cutest smiling face that gives them the nickname, "Teddy Bear Sheep".
Gentle, docile nature
Calm and very easy to handle
Great weeders for Orchards and Vineyards
Naturally polled so there are no horns
Respectful of fencing
Our Babydoll sheep are registered with the Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association.