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  adult Leicester Longwools  






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Back in the USA

In 1990, after a long search for a correct breed of 18th century sheep, the Coach and Livestock Department of Colonial Williamsburg imported 10 purebred Leicester Longwools from Tasmania. With the help of third generation Leicester breeder, Ivan Heazlewood, a flock from a variety of bloodlines was assembled and transported to Virginia. Through careful breeding, a satellite flock program and later with private flocks the numbers have grown. Importations of semen from New Zealand, Australia and England have expanded the genetic diversity of the breed and introduced colored fleeced animals.




The Leicester Longwool is listed as critically rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

At "Dishley Grange" farm in  Leicestershire, England, visitors today can still see signs of the innovative farming techniques of a pioneering 18th century farmer named Robert Bakewell. Recognizing that with selective breeding he could make changes over time to the traits of his livestock, he made profound improvements to hogs, horses and his prized longhorn cattle. But his triumph was the Leicester Longwool sheep, which has since played a vital role in the development of many of our familiar modern sheep breeds.

A large framed, dual-purpose sheep carrying a heavy long-stapled fleece, the Leicester Longwool is a sturdy, efficient and adaptable breed. Making good use of marginal forages they can thrive in a wide variety of climatic conditions. Rams average 250 lbs, and ewes 180 lbs. Ewes are good mothers giving plenty of rich milk, with a lambing percentage of 120-150% and higher in selected flocks.

Founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both had large flocks of sheep and took pains to bring in good Leicester rams from England to improve their stock.

World travelers, Leicester Longwools have been exported to mainland Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. In 1826 the Leicester Longwool was one of the first pure breeds to be imported into Australia. Today it is known there as the "English Leicester," and is valued as a crossing sire to improve the carcass qualities of finewool breeds.

During the late 19th and early 20th century the Leicester gradually fell out of favor as it was replaced by newer breeds. By the 1930's it was nearly extinct in North America. Today it's classified as "rare" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, but is enjoying a revival of interest due to the wonderful lustrous fleece and other desirable traits.

We are dedicated to preserving this priceless foundation breed for future generations of shepherds.









Leicester Longwool Sheep
Breeders Association (LLSBA)

705 Hamilton St.                     Williamsburg, VA 23185


Fleece Characteristics

The Leicester Longwool's fleece is prized by handspinners and crafters for its curl, soft handle and lustrous beauty. The fleece generally weighs from 11-18 lbs. although heavier fleeces have been recorded. The wool has an evenness of length with a spiral tipped staple length of up to 14 inches in twelve months growth.

It is high-yielding and stylish with well-defined crimp. Generally softer and somewhat finer than Lincoln or Cotswold, it's highly valued by handspinners and weavers for its handle and beautiful dye acceptance.

Leicester Longwool fleece comes in white or "English" blue or black

Leicester Longwool fleece

The wool dyes exceptionally well, maintaining the purity of color and the natural luster still shines through.