flesh closely resembles venison or game, and is rich in muscle (lean), and not disfigured by fat. Hence all mountain and heath sheep produce a high quality of mutton. Short wool and fine mutton generally go together, and in most of the best mutton races the face and shanks are coloured black, brown or grey. The Down breeds have all roamed over sweet and scant herbage for centuries, and have acquired a muscular development and fineness of fibre common to them all. The long-woolled races above described have developed heavier fleeces, larger frames, and coarser flesh by grazing on rich lowlands, and by artificial feeding in winter. They lay their fat on externally on their backs and loins, and never handle so firmly as Down or Forest-bred sheep. The two classes of long-woolled and short-woolled sheep differ in the following points:—
|Long-Woolled Sheep.||Short-Woolled Sheep.|
|Heavier carcasses.||Lighter carcasses.|
|Longer wool.||Shorter wool.|
|White faces and shanks.||Brown faces and shanks.|
|Coarser mutton.||Finer mutton.|
|Fat, external and unduly developed.||Fat, internal and better mixed with the lean.|
|Adapted for lowlands.||Adapted for highlands.|
Age has a great deal to do with the quality of meat, as is well shown by the expression "four-year-old mutton." This is considered the age for producing the highest quality of dark-grained tender flesh, but the exigencies of modern farming have rendered it necessary to lower the age, and most mutton is now killed at from ten to sixteen months old. In parks and demesnes it is still usual to hold back the smaller wethers to grow slowly into mutton for the private table of their wealthy owners.
Sex too is important. Wether mutton, or the flesh of the castrated male, is in the highest repute, although scarcely superior to young female mutton. Rams are always coarse in flesh and of inferior value after six months old, and acquire a strong flavour. Ewe mutton is also inferior, not on account of its age, which is generally only three or four years, but because bearing and suckling lambs dries the flesh and renders it less juicy and palatable.
Feeding exercises a very marked effect upon the meat. Turnips and oil-cake develop fat to an undue degree, and impart a coarseness not found in grass- or mountain-fed meat.
Lamb is always highly esteemed and commands a high price. It should be milk-fed and fattened while with the dam. The fat of lambs is never distasteful.
The best weight for carcasses is from 16 to 20 lb. per quarter, and heavy mutton is always less saleable. Some of the most esteemed