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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/623

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547
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON SHEEP

known of all the Down races of sheep. It was improved by the elder and younger Ellmans of Glynde, and was considered in the time of George III to be a perfect sheep for wool and mutton, size and quality. Four-year-old South Down mutton was the food of kings and nobles, and is still unrivalled except by some of the smaller Welsh and Devon breeds. The South Down is a hornless sheep with fawn-coloured face and legs. His form is singularly compact, and his carcass is always heavier than it looks. His original home is the Sussex Downs, north of Brighton, and it is there that he attains the highest perfection. The breed has always been a favourite, and King Edward VII is a breeder of excellent South Downs. So was the late Duke of Richmond, the present Lord Walsingham, and many distinguished gentlemen. After the Ellmans, the late Jonas Webb, of Babraham, Cambridgeshire, deserves special notice as an improver of this invaluable breed of sheep. What the Leicester sheep was to the older long-woolled races of sheep, the South Down has been to the numerous Down breeds, which in the time of Youatt occupied every chalk county in England. At that time Kent, Essex, Bucks, Berks, Surrey, Sussex, Hants, etc., all boasted breeds of Down sheep, but the South Down left an impress which obliterated most of these distinctions. He was crossed repeatedly upon the flocks of these counties, including Hampshire and Wilts, and the consequence is that at the present time there are only three types of Downs, namely, the Sussex Down, the Hampshire Down, and the Suffolk Down, all of which owe their perfection to crosses with the South Down. The same is true of Shropshire and Oxford sheep, so that the Sussex Down must be credited with having improved all the Down breeds of the country.

Hampshire Downs.—These were formerly called West-country Downs, because they were originally found west of the South Downs upon he chalk hills of Hampshire. They were freely crossed with South Downs, and notably by Mr. Humphries of Oakash, Berks, who is looked upon as the immediate founder of the Improved Hampshire Down. This sheep is of larger build than the South Down and darker features. The best are almost black in face and legs, hornless (as every breed in in this review not described as horned may be assumed to be), and well covered upon the head with white wool. "Well coloured and well covered" is one of the watchwords of the Hampshire Down breeder; and sheep which can be so described are always admired. They are very hardy and well suited for the high and exposed uplands of Wilts and Hants. They are however by no means confined to those counties, but are found either pure or crossed in all parts of the country. Hampshire rams have recently made 100 guineas each, and deserve a higher price. They yield good fleeces and first-rate mutton, and are every year gaining in favour for exportation.

Suffolk Downs.—The Suffolk men are justly proud of their county breed, which although there can be little doubt that it was crossed