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Portland sheep at Melplash show
The fortunes of Portland sheep take a ewe turn
A few years ago they were on the verge extinction but thanks to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and the Portland sheep breeders group they are making a comeback.
Portland is world famous for its stone but less known for its indigenous sheep population.
Legend has it that the ancestors of this rare breed, noted for its red face and legs, swam ashore from the Armada, more likely that the Mediterranean type sheep were introduced to the area by the Romans.
At its peak in 1840 there were four flocks of 1,000 sheep each which roamed Portland. The increase in quarrying on the island saw their decline with the final flock leaving Portland in 1920.
By 1974 the breed had almost become extinct The Rare Breeds Survival Trust set about finding the remaining 86 breeding ewes and three major bloodlines were traced.
1977 saw the reintroduction of the breed. Today there are currently 100 flocks and in 1996 a survey indicated that the breed was no longer threatened.
Tessa Hucklesby is secretary of the Portland Sheep Breeders Group, She is a big fan of this rare breed for many reasons. " Not only are they very attractive sheep, they are also good tempered, the fleeces are highly sought after and the horns which are found on both the male and female sheep are used for walking stick handles and buttons. Added to that the meat is delicious.
The sheep are ideal for small holders. With The Portland Sheep Breeders Group now boasts over 100 members and with 250 registered breeders throughout the whole of the country, it looks like the survival of this once dying breed is assured.
last updated: 11/09/2008 at 13:11