Breed Standard for the Leicester Longwool Sheep

Head and Face

The head carries strongly, but not too high, and is set on a short, thin neck. Head is neat and cleanly chiseled, wide between the ears and tapering slightly to the nostrils. There should be no sign of horns or scurs. Forelock should be present but not overly abundant, and should have a texture similar to the wool of the body. Face cover should be limited, and is more present in young animals than older ones. There should be no tendency for wool blindness. The face has a wedge shape and is covered with short white hair, which should be cleanly white with not a trace of gray or sandy pigment uniformly distributed throughout. Isolated discrete spots of black hair on face and ears are not objectionable. The white hair over dark skin gives the desired overall appearance of blue. Muzzle is strong and wide, with teeth meeting the dental pad evenly. Eyes are full sized, bright, and clear. Ears are blue (white hair over gray skin), fine, and fairly long, set on the side of the head and carried horizontally. Black spots are allowable on the ears. 

Comment: The head is an essential component of the breed type, and the ear carriage, shape, and degree and character of hair and wool on the head all reflect this. In addition, the head is a component of soundness. Wide mouths with even teeth are better able to consume grass. 


Photo Credit: colonial Williamsburg Foundation


Photo Credit: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation


Photo Credit: Hopping Acres Farm


Neck is short to medium length, is strong, and is level with the back. 

Comment: The neck carriage and style are a part of breed type and set the Leicester Longwool apart from other related longwools which have a higher neck carriage.


The shoulders are upright, and are wide over the top. The shoulders meet the back smoothly, with no tendency for a dip between them over the top.

Comment: The shoulders are a part of the wide, thick conformation that is typical of the breed. A dip, or "mutton withers," is objectionable since it is functionally weak and allows for a degradation of wool between the shoulders.


The chest should be deep and wide and the breast prominent.


The back is wide and level. It is well filled behind the shoulders, resulting in great girth and thickness through the heart girth. The back carries firm, even flesh. The loin is long, wide, and deep.


The ribs are well sprung, given the barrel great given the barrel shape has a great capacity for lungs and digestive organs.

Hind Quarters

The rear quarters are full and square, with no tendency for a narrow rear. The legs are well muscled and full. The tail is set on well and is nearly level with the back. Tails are ideally docked with too short a dock discouraged.

Legs and Feet

The legs are straight from the back and front view, are tightly attached and are set wide apart. The legs from hocks and knees down are covered with short white hair or a combination of hair and wool. The hair and wool on the legs is ideally free from gray, rust, or sand color, although some animals have discreet black spots. From the side the limbs have correct angles at shoulders, stifle, hip, hock, and pasterns. The cannon bones are short, and the pasterns upright without being too steep. The hooves are black and tough and are resistant to foot rot.

Comment: Leicester sheep should be large, robust, square sheep, as reflected in the chest, back, ribs, hindquarters, legs, and feet. They should be thick throughout, with great body capacity. Length, width, and squareness are all important and typical of the breed, although the sheep can become too extremely square and wide, and as a result have poor mobility.


The skin of the body is a healthy pink color, with the occasional black or gray spot not penalized if these spots grow white wool.

Comment: Leicesters have heavily pigmented facial skin, and with that comes a tendency for pigmented skin throughout. This pigment is not objectionable unless it is associated with pigmented wool on otherwise white individuals. Pigmented skin tends to increase as sheep age, so that very old sheep are likely to have a grayer skin than younger sheep.


Movement is free, confident, and smooth.

Comment: Functional movement is the key to the sheep being able to use pasture effectively, and is a critical component of this breed type. 

Constitution and General Appearance

Leicester Longwool sheep are alert and robust, and have style and character. They should be active yet docile and easily handled. 

Comment: Docility and ease of handling are important components of breed character.


Mature rams range from 140 pounds to 330 pounds. Mature ewes range from 110 pounds to 220 pounds.


The udders of ewes should be tightly and well attached, symmetrical and with even texture throughout. Extra teats are moderately objectionable. The testes of males should be symmetrical, with good tone and should hang freely in the scrotum. Testes and related structures should be free of abnormal lumps or textures. The prepuce of the male should be clean and not ulcerated. Ewes should mother their lambs well with good milk production for rapid growth. 

Comment: Reproductive function is critical to the breed without which the breed is of little utility. This includes milk production for females and testicular function and capacity for males, both of which are related to the conformation and textural quality of these organs. 


The fleece is dense and grade and style are uniform over the entire animal. The wool is ideally silky and lustrous with a soft handle. Locks should hang individually, have medium crimp or wave and have no tendency for crossfibering. The wool should have a well defined crimp or wave over the entire lock, and should be a uniform texture from the skin to the tip. High luster is typical of the breed. Wool is clean and white with little tendency for yellowing. Colored spots in white fleeces are objectionable. The wool growth for one year varies from 5 to 14 inches, fleece weights for ewes vary from 6 to 14 pounds, for rams 9 to 20 pounds. The fiber diameter is usually 32 to 38 microns, with a Bradford count of 40s to 46s. 

Comment: The fleece of Leicester sheep is very distinctive and is an important part of the breed. Fleece characters set the breed apart from others and must be rigorously guarded.

Colored Sheep

Colored sheep are acceptable. Colored sheep are colored throughout the head and legs, and throughout the fleece. Colored sheep do not include white sheep with areas of colored fleece as these are objectionable in the breed. The colored areas of white sheep arise through genetic mechanisms that are a great risk to a white breed. The mechanisms for more uniformly colored sheep (some of which are attractively shaded over the body) are not a risk to a white breed, since the result is sheep that are either wholly colored or wholly white. Aside from color, the standard for colored sheep is as for white sheep described above. The usual colors in the breed are "English Blue," which is a shaded gray, and black.