Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Black Welsh Mountain Sheep

Ovis aries

The Black Welsh Mountain sheep is the only completely black breed of sheep in Britain. It was originally bred by Welsh shepherds over a century ago by pairing rare black sheep that occurred in the normally white Welsh Mountain breed. Its naturally black wool is prized by hand-spinners, making it the original “Baa, Baa Black Sheep” of Mother Goose rhymes!

Range & Habitat

Black Welsh Mountain Sheep are mostly found in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as they were originally bred for sheep farming in the mountains of Wales. Three rams and 13 ewes were imported to the United States in 1973, beginning the North American population. They are considered a Heritage Breed of livestock in need of conservation.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

This breed is listed as Threatened by the Livestock Conservancy. There are now approximately 1,600 in North America in flocks across the United States and Canada. They are considered rare and some zoos are stepping in to provide safe homes for and educate people about them.

Diet

In their native Britain, their diet mostly consists of grasses, hays and oats. In human care they are fed grain and hay.

Life Span

10- 12 years

Fun Facts about the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep

  •  Male black Welsh Mountain sheep (called rams) have striking horns that curve around their ears, while females (called ewes) have no horns.
  •  Their wool is highly valued for use in tweeds and other undyed patterns of wool fabric, but they also are farmed for meat.
  •  They are known for being quite hardy and self-reliant, as well as great foragers, because they were bred to spend months at a time grazing in the mountains of Wales.

 

 

Updated January 29, 2021
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