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Lincoln Longwools

Using the Lincoln Longwool Sheep Breeders Association, The Risby Flock of Lincoln Longwools and the RBST, learn more about Lincoln Longwools.

The quintessentially British Sheep, the Lincoln Longwool is the largest native breed of sheep in England. Originally bred for their long lustrous coats and their meat, they are a very versatile animal. This made them increasingly popular and led to a large number of them being exported to all corners of the globe. It is from this and thanks to the longwools that much of our nation’s wealth was built. Since the decline of the wool industry and increased demand for cheaper meat, the longwools have sadly fallen into decline. They are now a category 4 ‘at risk’ on the RBST watchlist. With fewer than 1000 breeding ewes left in the country, it is important that we protect this fascinating heritage breed.

The long curly tendrils of the Lincoln longwool make it a very hardy sheep. They have a thick lustrous coat very popular in the 17 – 1900’s for all textile uses. Producing one of the heaviest fleeces of any breed. It is growing increasingly popular today, with crafters coming to realise, once again, it’s brilliant potential. Spinning, needle felting, dyeing, knitting and lots of other crafts, will hopefully create an increase in the longwool population.
The longwools have a fleece with a growth rate of 1 inch per month, and so provides a yearly clip of 12 inch long fibres weighing around 20lbs per fleece. This is nearly four times the growth rate of an average breed sheep, making it perfect for the wool and craft industry.

Lincoln Longwools drinking water from a pond

The difference between Lincoln Longwool lamb and that which you buy in the supermarket is simply ‘taste’. Unlike their commercial cousins, Lincoln Longwool lambs take longer to mature which ultimately means a far superior product for the consumer. Despite popular myth, Lincoln Longwool lamb is NOT ‘fatty’, in fact from sight alone it would be difficult to tell the difference between a Lincoln cut and that from a commercially bred animal. Lincoln Longwools were always natural mutton producers, a large framed sheep with plenty of substance excelled at providing that staple of the British pre & post war dinner table. However, in line with the waning wool prices of the 1960s mutton gradually fell out of fashion as the increasing imports in lamb from New Zealand replaced our traditional cuts.

There are just over 40 Longwool flocks registered in Lincolnshire. The Lincoln Longwool Sheep Breeders Association are dedicated to getting this rare breed off the ‘at risk’ list and back into healthy numbers. The association was founded in 1892 with a view to maintaining the breed and upholding promotion of Longwools. Today numbers of the association stand at 120, comprising of both young and older generation breeders and general supporters of the breed. The association is keen to find new flock breeders and give lots of useful information on their website.

Thanks to Louise Fairburn from Risby Grange for providing us with information and photos of these beautiful and historic sheep.

Two Lincoln Longwools with impressive hairstyles


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