Dorset Horn Sheep

What is the history of Dorset Horn Sheep?

The Dorset Horn is an endangered breed of native British sheep. It has been documented from the seventeenth century and is highly productive, sometimes producing two lambing seasons a year. It is the only breed among English sheep that can breed throughout the winter.

Dorset Horn was born in Dorset in the southwest of England. Unlike many English lowland breeds, Dorset sheep were not affected by crossbreeding with the Leicester or Southdown breeds, which were widely used for this purpose in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Dorset Horn Sheep Breeders Association was established in 1891 and the first herd book was published the following year.

The breed was exported to North America 1860 (The Continental Dorset Club was organized in 1890) and New Zealand 1897, and in 1895 the breed became quite important in Australia.

Australians prefer polled sheep for ease of management, and using Ryeland they were able to develop a poll Dorset, a poll Dorset Horn variety. These were imported into the UK and soon became more popular than the original Dorset Horns.

What are the characteristics of Dorset Horn Sheep?

  • Dorset Horn has white wool and white face; nostrils are characteristic pink and elongated bodies.
  • Sheep are heavy milkers, they can easily raise their own lambs.
  • It has also been used in dairy products.
  • Dorset sheep produce five to nine pounds of medium wool per year. In the horn variety, both sheep and rams carry horns.
  • Dorset Horn sheep horns are light and smoothly curved forward; Dorset Horn rams' horns are heavy and spiral outward as well as curved forward.
  • Dorset Horn Sheep breeds at any time of the year, but also with a long breeding season, also referred to as non-seasonal or seasonal breeding. This feature is not found in any other British breed.
  • Many breeds of sheep are seasonal breeders that mate in the fall and produce lambs in the spring.
  • In contrast, Dorset Horn can be grown in the spring for the production of lambs in the fall.
  • Some sheep raise two sets of lambs a year, multiple births are not uncommon.
  • Dorsets tolerate heat well, and heat tolerance contributes to the ability of Dorset rams to reproduce earlier in the season than rams of other breeds.
  • Purebred Dorset Horned lamb is killed from 10 weeks to give 16-20 kg carcass.
  • Dorset Horned sheep can produce lambs up to 10-12 years old.
  • The fleece is thick, with a weight of 2.25 to 3 kg, a punch length of 80-100 mm and a bradford count of 54s-58s.

What is the weight of a Mature Dorset Horn Sheep?

Image: Louise Crowther - Blunkenhill Flock

Dorset Horn rams are between 100–125 kg and a mature sheep weighs between 70 and 90 kg.

Image: Louise Crowther - Blunkenhill Flock

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