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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BRITAIN
 
  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

 
More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
sheep

The British climate and the profusion of grass make the country well suited to the cultivation of sheep, which were introduced by the *Romans. By the late Middle Ages *wool was a source of great prosperity in many areas. Out of almost 300 breeds of sheep in existence today, many of the most widely known were developed in Britain; indeed almost every county of southern England has a variety named after it. The oldest English breed is the Southdown (dark-faced, hornless), raised on the Sussex *Downs and known for excellent meat production and for a very fine but light fleece. The broad term 'Down sheep' is also applied to the medium-wool and dark-faced Hampshire, Oxford, Shropshire and Suffolk sheep, all bred in similar conditions.
 






The Cheviot, from the border district of the *Cheviots between England and Scotland, is a hardy white-faced breed; like the Border Leicester (originally a cross between Cheviot and Leicester), it has no wool on its head or legs, giving it the neat picture-book image of the essential sheep. Also white-faced and hornless, but with longer and coarser wool, are the Leicester, Cotswold, Lincoln and Wensleydale. The best-known horned English sheep is the white-faced Dorset or Dorset Horn. Two hardy mountain breeds have become well established: the horned Scottish Blackface (or Blackface Highland), and the Welsh Mountain sheep, white-faced and with only the rams growing horns. The island of Soay, part of *St Kilda, has its own distinctive breed.
 








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