Border Leicester (sheep)

Border Leicester (sheep)

The Border Leicester (Leicester is pronounced "Lester") is an English long wool breed of sheep. They are large, robust polled sheep, with no wool on their face or legs.


The live weight of a mature ram will be in the range of 140-175 kg and a mature ewe 90-120 kg. A yearling ewe is around 140 pounds (64 kg). Their white wool tends to be very long and by Merino standards, broad crimped (about 32 to 38 microns), and is used for medium to heavy weight garments. This wool, though, is prized by spinners because of the crimp and lustre. The sheep are normally shorn twice a year when the wool has reached a length of around 100 mm (4 inches). Lambs when shorn have an average of 1.8 kg (4 pounds) of wool; yearlings have a larger body and can have as much as 3.2 kg (7 pounds) at each shearing.

The Australian and New Zealand Border Leicester sheep very rarely sport the extreme rabbit-like ears of their northern relatives.


Border Leicester sheep were imported to Australia in 1871, where they now has a large number of stud flocks. Border Leicester rams are used for mating with Merino ewes to breed the first-cross mothers that are so valuable for the production of prime lambs. Border Leicester Merino cross ewes produced in this way offer the greatest overall performance when breeding meat type sheep, with a well proportioned carcase, high fertility, good forageing ability and good milk production.Border Leicester Merino cross ewes are mated to shortwool rams (e.g. Poll Dorset or Southdown) to produce prime lambs, which grow rapidly to market weights and have the ideal carcase shape. The vast majority of Australian lambs produced for meat are bred in this manner. [*Stephens, M ("et al"), "Handbook of Australian Livestock", Australian Meat & Livestock Export Corporation, 2000 (4th ed), ISBN 1 74036 2160]

The breed was imported into New Zealand in 1859, and after refrigeration was introduced in the 1880s, the Border Leicester was used as a crossing sire to produce heavyweight lambs and wether mutton. The Border Leicester was later used to develop New Zealand's Border-Romney cross (Coopworth) and the Border-Corriedale (Borderdale) breeds. Registered flocks are now found in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Border Leicester sheep have been exported to British Guiana, Canada, China, Colombia, South Africa, France, Spain, Portugal, United States, India, Japan, Yugoslavia, Iran, Hungary, Russia, Turkey and Switzerland.

In the United States there are two associations: American Border Leicester Association and the North American Border Leicester Association. Breeders show their sheep at county shows and fairs throughout the year with a National Show being held annually at the North American International Livestock Exposition held in Louisville, Kentucky every November.

In the 1995 film Babe, Maa the Very Old Ewe indignantly proclaims that she is "no ordinary sheep. I'm a Border Leicester ewe."


Stock Types, The Land, c.1988

External links

* [ Australian Border Leicester Assoc.]
* [ BL History]
* [ NZ Border Leicester Assoc.]

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