THE MINIATURE CHEVIOT
~ History of the Cheviot Sheep ~
The Cheviot Sheep is a very old sheep breed that originates from the English Scottish border region, dating back to around 1372 when they were listed as, "a small but very hardy race over large tracts of the Cheviot Hills." They were not known as Cheviots at this stage, but "long hill sheep" due to the length of their bodies compared to other sheep. During these times Britain was a big wool producer so it is a reasonable assumption that the breed was kept for wool. For centuries, the breeding and improvement of these sheep was in the hands of Monks as the Church owned large tracts of land, and most breeding efforts were focused on wool. During the 15th Century, thousands of Merino sheep were imported from Europe, so it is entirely possible the sheep in the Hills also had some Merino added. In fact, the Cheviot Handbook 1961, also suggests an infusion of Merino. A later addition of Lincoln by Mr James Robson, of Belford, Scotland during the the mid 18th century produced a larger, meatier sheep with a heavier fleece. This new, "improved" version soon began to spread across the region.
At around the same time, Sir John Sinclair, was reviewing the merits of each breed with a view to improving native wool. He was very impressed with the long hill sheep and took five hundred of them back to his farm in Caithness, Scotland and so the North Country Cheviot or Scottish Cheviot was born. From then on, the original Cheviot Sheep from the Cheviot Hills were referred to as the South Country Cheviots or Hill Cheviots. A third type later developed when the two were infused, creating the Border Type and a fourth type the Brecknock Hill Cheviot was developed in Wales.
Cheviots were first brought to Australia in 1843, imported to Tasmania by the Van Diemen Co but it wasn't until 1938 the first Stud was established in South Australia by H.R.Walsh and Co. They became very popular by the late 50's to early 60's but by 1997 there were only 1311 Cheviot ewes registered in the ASBBS Flock Book. They are now on the Books of the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia.
The Cheviot is a dual purpose breed and is extremely hardy. The ancient survival skills that have held them in good stead for so long in the Border Hills are still apparent today..... clean faces ensuring good sight, pricked ears for good hearing, black feet to weather foot rot, to which they are said to be resistant and the ability to thrive in harsh, cold conditions.
~ Wool ~
The Cheviot fleece is often classified as a Downs fleece due to the characteristic three dimensional or helical crimp. It is the most Scottish of wools being the favoured wool for tartan cloth. It is strong and resilient, perfect for hats, socks and mittens. It has a long staple of around 100-150cm and a micron count in the high twenties to low thirties. Prized by hand spinners, the fleece can be hand or drum carded or each staple simply teased and spun from the staple. It takes dye strongly but does not have the sheen of some of the longwools. A beautiful fluffier yarn can be achieved with the long draw spinning technique.
~ History of the Miniature Cheviot Sheep in Australia ~
The concept behind the Miniature or Classic Cheviot Sheep was not to create a new breed but to preserve the original "long Hill sheep" as it appeared all those years ago, before it was bred up in size to today's meat producing sheep. So it's early history is also that of the Cheviot Sheep, as no other breed has been added..
Miniature Cheviot Sheep were not imported to Australia but were developed as a breed by Eligio (pictured below) and Aline Bruzzese in 1998 on their farm on the Mornington Peninsula. Eligio was impressed by the Miniature Cheviots in the United States and he decided to start his breeding program from his already established Paramount Cheviot Sheep Stud.
El's selection process used the Cheviot Breed Standard published by the Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association of Australia in the Australian Flock Register, which gives the Breed Standards but not the Size. For this El used the Standards developed by the American Miniature Cheviot Sheep Breeders Association. The mature Miniature Cheviot, at two years old should have a maximum height of 580mm (23ins) at the top of the shoulder after shearing. Mature ewes should weigh 20-40kg and mature rams 25-45kg. According to El, "the smaller, the better as long as animal health, quality and the breed standards do not suffer."
Eligio and Aline dispersed their stock in early 2015, when they moved to Darwin, but all of the Miniature Cheviot Sheep today can be attributed to El's Breeding Program.
~ Attributes of the Miniature Cheviot Sheep ~
Excellent mothers, often producing twins
Small lambs, so ease of lambing
Dark feet, resistant to foot rot
Not prone to Fly Strike or Intestinal Parasites
Clean Face and Legs
Our Miniature Cheviot sheep are registered with the Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association.