The mutton is rather coarse and the fat is laid on too thickly; but for crossing purposes the breed has been very useful.
In Lincolnshire the Improved Lincoln is the predominant breed, especially in the low-lying rich lands of the south. It is a white-faced hornless breed, and in this respect closely resembles the Leicester. It is of much larger size, and is probably the heaviest sheep in the world. Lincoln sheep have often attained a weight of 90 lb. a quarter or 360 lb. carcass weight, while their wool has been known to measure 23 inches in length, and the fleeces have scaled as heavy as 23 lb. of wool. This sheep is adapted for the rich marshes of the fen districts, and requires good land. Its wool has received the appellation of "lustre," from its glistening brilliance where severed from the body. The Lincoln sheep is too heavy in the carcass and too fat to please the taste of epicures. In the days when wool sold at 1s. 6d. to 2s. a pound, a Lincoln teg in his wool was worth £5, and even now Lincoln rams from the best flocks have been sold for hundreds of pounds each. There is a great export trade for the rams to Argentina and Australia, as the Lincoln-Merino is a profitable cross, combining the properties of both flesh and wool to a high degree.
In the Midlands of England Shropshire sheep are the favourite breed. They are of composite origin, being derived from Shropshire ewes crossed successively with Leicester and South Downs. They now constitute an established race of medium woolled, dark-faced, hornless sheep, of thick and substantial form, and yielding mutton of superior quality.
The Oxford breed was originally derived by crossing Cotswolds and Hampshire Downs, and the produce were long known as cross-breds. The credit is due to the late Mr. John Twynam, and the Messrs. Druce of Eynsham. The Oxfords are not so widely distributed as the Shropshires, but they breed largely in Oxfordshire and contiguous counties. In many respects they resemble Shropshires, but are easily distinguished by their longer ears and freedom from wrinkles on the neck and around the under-jaw.
The Cotswold breed of sheep has long been associated with the Cotswold hills, which rise above Cheltenham and extend through north Gloucestershire into Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. It is an upstanding, white-faced, hornless sheep, with a boldly curling fleece, and, like all the heavy breeds of long-woolled sheep, its mutton does not command the highest price. It is however highly esteemed upon its native hills, and is no doubt the result of Leicester crosses upon the older breed which occupied Cotswold.
Among other long-woolled sheep, the Devon long wools, the Kentish long wools, the Romney Marsh and the Worsleydale all deserve notice, and all three closely resemble Lincoln sheep.
The South Down or Sussex Down stands out pre-eminently as the best