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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/621

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545
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON SHEEP

and the fleeces are long, medium, short, close or open, fine or coarse.

THE PRINCIPAL BREEDS.

If we take a survey from the extreme north to the south coast, we shall find the following races of sheep in possession. The remoter parts of Scotland, such as the islands of Arran, Islay, Jura, the Orkneys and Shetlands are still inhabited by sheep of small size of various colours, some being dun-faced, others white-faced and horned, others dark, black, or russet in colour. These are apparently indigenous, or, as in the case of Shetland sheep, derived from Scandinavia. Shetland wool is well known for its fineness, and is esteemed for the manufacture of shawls, stockings, and for all light woollen manufactures. Argyleshire and most of the black or heath lands of the Highlands, are now stocked with the Heath or Black-faced breed, which is armed in both sexes with horns. The faces and legs are black and white, clearly defined; the fleece is long and mixed with hair along the back; the form is short and the general character active, bold and hardy. They live on grass and heather, and the flesh derives a pleasant flavour from the latter. The black-faced sheep has displaced the original smaller breeds throughout the Highlands, and as far south as Dumfriesshire. It occupies the extensive moors of Northumberland, and extends into Derbyshire, and it is highly esteemed in the mountainous regions of N. Wales.

The Cheviot breed of sheep is short woolled and usually hornless. Its original home is the Great Cheviot, but it is largely kept on the Lowlands, both north and south of Cheviot. This sheep is extremely hardy, and does well upon the lower ranges of the Scotch Highlands wherever grass abounds; but when heather takes the place of grass the black faces predominate. A cross between Cheviot and Border-Leicester is much in favour throughout the Lowlands, and in the northern counties of England.

The Border-Leicester is well known in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Northumberland, both as a pure breed and for crossing with both Cheviot and black-faced ewes. The former gives an excellent "teg," which fattens more rapidly than the Cheviot. The latter gives the "mule" or Masham sheep, which thrives well upon the poorer classes of grass land in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland.

In Yorkshire the true Leicester occurs in perfection, but this breed is also found in its native county, and is the premier breed of the country in point of age as its improvement was carried out by Robert Bakewell of Dishley, Loughborough, in the middle years of the eighteenth century. The Improved Leicester breed has been more extensively used than any other long woolled race in improving other breeds of similar character of wool. The improved Lincoln. Romney Marsh, Kentish long-wools, Devon long-wools and Cotswolds were all crossed with Leicesters in the earlier years of the last century or previously.