One of the most recognisable of all sheep breeds, with its impressive horns, black face and snowy white wool, the hills and uplands of Great Britain would not be the same without the Blackface.
Breed standards state that all Blackfaces are horned, with black or black and white face and legs. The fleece should be free of black fibre and can vary from short, fine wool used for carpets and tweeds to strong coarse wool, which is sold mainly for the mattress trade.
As a maternal hill breed, the females have a strong mothering ability to rear lambs in extreme terrain, thriving on marginal ground and contributing to the areas biodiversity. Naturally hardy, the ewes require very little supplementary feeding and make the most of the species-rich but poor quality grazing available to them. A consequence of the sheep’s diet is that the meat produced is high in Omega 3 content. The breed is easily hefted, making it ideal for large areas of hill country and is able to produce a type for every climatic condition.
There are several distinct types within the breed. These have evolved over the years, influenced by climate, environment, and grazing quality. This gives the breed the advantage of being able to produce species to suit every climatic condition. The Scottish Blackface is sub-divided into three types.
The Perth type:
A large-framed sheep with a medium to heavy wool, found mainly in north-east Scotland, south-west England and Northern Ireland.
The Lanark type:
Dominant in much of Scotland and areas of Ireland, is of medium size, with shorter wool than the Perth type. Over the past thirty years, a strong influence of Newton Stewart type has been introduced, the integration of Lanark and Newton Stewart bloodlines, as well as benefiting both milking ability and hardiness, has helped create a more uniform and identifiable breed.
The Northumberland type:
Large-framed and soft wooled, this type is popular and influential in breeding the North of England Mule.