Cotswold Sheep

Almost as tame as a dog, the Cotswold sheep are docile and friendly, eager to interact with people. These animals have thick heavy fleeces and are capable of enduring hardship and exposure. It originated on the bleak Cotswold hills of Great Britain, and the breed was brought to Canada from England in the 1860s. It has been recorded that in 1865, sheep of this breed were purchased in Halifax at prices ranging from $22 for a ram to $60 for ewes. Flocks of sheep about this time were numerous in many areas across Nova Scotia.

In the 1800s the Cotswolds became some of the most numerous long woolled sheep in the world. In contrast to the short woolled Southdown breed, the Cotswold sheep could yield a fleece three times the weight of a Southdown fleece. The wool from the Cotswolds was also longer and stronger, which also aided in its preference. Even though the wool of Cotswolds was very sought after, their continued main purpose was for both meat and mutton.

By 1870, the preferred rams had become the Cotswold. Between 1878 and 1914 there were almost 75,000 purebred Cotswolds registered in the American flock book. By 1978, however, the numbers had dwindled to 78. The situation had become drastic in the 1980s when there were an estimated Cotswold ewe population of just 35 in Canada. Since then, the number of sheep and breeders has risen once again, especially since 1991.

On most farms in earlier periods, purebred sheep were not practical as a means of producing everything the farmer needed. Farmers often crossbred their sheep in order to pass on more of the desirable traits that each breed possessed. For example, the hardiness of the Southdown sheep and the strong wool of the Cotswold could have both been preferred. So the farmer would cross breed the two sheep, creating a better sheep for himself, but aiding in the destruction of the two purebreds along the way. This is one of the major reasons that many breeds of sheep, such as the Cotswold, have dwindled over the years. The crossbred sheep, while having characteristics of at least a couple purebred breeds, became known as “grade” sheep.

Source: Ross Farm Museum Website (http://museum.gov.ns.ca/rfm/en/home/default.aspx)