Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep
Well their name is bigger than they are! This is one of the oldest of the English breeds of sheep, originating back in the early 1700’s on the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. These small sheep were known then for their extreme hardiness & produced meat with unmatched tenderness & flavor of any other breed of sheep.
They arrived in the US in the early 1800’s. By the end of WWII, the demand for larger cuts of meat had almost forced the breed into extinction here. This was a significant factor in breeding for the larger, leggier Southdown of today. The divergence from the original breed standards was the beginning of what would later become 2 distinct lines: the Southdown & the miniature back in the 1700’s (or original) Southdown.
In 1986 here in the US, Mr. Robert Mock began a quest to find the sheep with the original bloodlines from the early Southdowns of the 1700’s. After many years he found 350 sheep & began the Olde English Babydoll Southdown Registry. One of the major goals of this registry was to return the original breed to England where the little sheep had been extinct for over 50 years. In 1999, this goal was accomplished, but their numbers are so few they remain on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust List. They are listed as Recovering here in the US at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Now these little sheep are used for many things. They make excellent pets & companions for the young, elderly & disabled due to their diminutive size & gentle nature. Their fleece is in the class of cashmere & their wool is ideal for hand spinning. They have been used with great success in wine vineyards as well as fruit & berry orchards since they are excellent grazers & they will not harm the fruits, girdle trunks of trees or harm shrubs. They leave the grounds well groomed & fertilize behind themselves as they graze! Because Babydoll Southdowns are an ancient breed, they are not prone to many of the modern sheep problems & are resistant to foot rot, a common ailment with modern sheep.
We have a small flock of registered heritage Southdowns right now. Clovis is my remaining foundation ewe & I now have a flock of 11. They are truly a special breed of sheep & the cutest animals you’ve ever seen!