The Black Welsh Mountain is the only completely black sheep breed in Britain. It was developed in the mountains of Wales from black sheep that occurred in the Welsh Mountain breed, which was white. About a century ago, Welsh shepherds began to breed the black sheep together, also selecting for a finer fleece and improved body conformation. The resulting breed, called Black Welsh Mountain, was recognized in 1922 with the establishment of the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep Society.
Black Welsh Mountain Sheep
Black Welsh Mountain sheep are small to medium in size. Rams have attractive horns that curl around the ears, while ewes are polled. The wool is short, thick, and densely stapled. The staple length is 5 to 10 cm, and the fiber diameter ranges between 28 to 36 microns. The average wool clip is three to four pounds per sheep. Black Welsh Mountain wool is attractive to hand spinners. The natural black color makes it valuable for use undyed or in combination with other wools, when it is used to make grays or in the manufacture of tweeds and other patterns.
The breed is known for its hardiness and self-reliance, qualities that were important in its native environment. Black Welsh Mountain sheep are also excellent foragers and excellent mothers, able to raise lambs on marginal pasture. Black Welsh Mountain market lamb is considered premium meat in Britain.
Black Welsh Mountain sheep were first imported into North America in 1972 by Thomas Wyman of Easton, Maryland. The U.S. breed registry was established in 1990, adopting the standard and rules of the British Society. It includes animals that are descendants of the Wye Heights flock and other registered British sheep.
The breed has been promoted as an exotic sheep in North America, and this has made the Black Welsh Mountain a well-kept secret in the sheep industry and among sheep producers. Its qualities, however, make the breed a natural choice for sustainable sheep producers. The Black Welsh Mountain should become better known as it is used in this production niche. The British population of Black Welsh Mountain fell below 5,000 in 2012, increasing the value of the North American population for global conservation.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.