Bluefaced Leicester Sheep

The Bluefaced Leicester sheep is a breed of domestic sheep originated from the United Kingdom. It was developed from a breeding scheme of Robert Bakewell in Dishley, Leicestershire in the 19th century.

The breed was first known as the Dishley Leicester, and then Hexham Leicester. The name Bluefaced Leicester become known at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is also known as Bluefaced Maine and Blue-headed Maine.

The Bluefaced Leicester sheep were exported to Canada in the 1970s. Today the breed is raised for both meat and milk production. Their fleece is becoming increasingly popular for handspinning.

Today the breed is mainly found in Northern England, Wales and Scotland. Read some more information about this British sheep breed below.

Bluefaced Leicester Sheep Full Information

The Bluefaced Leicester sheep are large sized animals. They are mainly white in color with blue face.

These animals are easily recognizable by their Roman noses, which have a dark blue skin which can be seen through the white hair. And the breed is named so mainly for their face.

Average body height of the Bluefaced Leicester rams is around 90 cm at the withers, and around 85 cm for the ewes.

Average live body weight of the mature rams is around 110 kg. And the mature ewes on average weight around 89 kg. [1]

History and Origin

The Bluefaced Leicester sheep breed originated in the northern regions of England in the 18th century. The breed is a result of crossbreeding between Leicester Longwool and Teeswater sheep.

The Teeswater sheep were bred for their fine wool, while the Leicester Longwool were known for their large size and meat qualities. The combination of these two breeds resulted in the Bluefaced Leicester, which was originally bred for its wool.

Over time, the breed’s meat qualities became more prominent due to their ability to produce lean meat with good flavor. Today, Bluefaced Leicester sheep are raised primarily for their meat, but their wool is still highly regarded among hand spinners and weavers.


Bluefaced Leicester sheep are medium to large-sized animals, with rams weighing between 200 and 250 pounds and ewes weighing between 150 and 200 pounds.

Their most distinguishing characteristic is their blue face, which is covered in fine hair rather than wool. This hair gives the breed a distinctive appearance and also helps to protect their eyes from harsh weather conditions.

Their fleece is long and curly, with a high luster and soft handle. It is generally considered a medium-fine wool, with a staple length of around four to six inches. The wool is often used for luxury items such as shawls, scarves, and blankets.

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Bluefaced Leicester sheep have a docile temperament and are easy to manage. They are intelligent animals and have a natural curiosity about their surroundings. They are hardy and adaptable, able to thrive in various environments.

Breeding and Reproduction

Bluefaced Leicester sheep are seasonal breeders, with the breeding season typically beginning in September or October. The gestation period for ewes is around 147 days, and they generally give birth to one or two lambs per year. Lambs are typically born in late winter or early spring.

The breed is known for its high fertility rates and good mothering abilities. Ewes are attentive mothers and produce plenty of milk for their lambs. Rams are also easy to manage and can be used for both natural and artificial insemination.


Bluefaced Leicester sheep are primarily raised for their meat, which is lean and flavorful. The meat is often sold as lamb, but can also be marketed as mutton if the animals are allowed to mature longer. The breed’s wool is also highly valued by hand spinners and weavers for its softness, luster, and curly texture.

In addition to their meat and wool, Bluefaced Leicester sheep are also used for conservation grazing. They are effective at managing vegetation in areas that may be difficult to access with machinery, such as hillsides and wetlands.

Their grazing habits can help to maintain biodiversity and promote the growth of native plant species.

Special Notes

The Bluefaced Leicester sheep are hardy and strong animals. They are well adapted to their local climates.

They have curly, fine, rather lustrous wool which is one of the softest of the UK clip. Their fleece is not very heavy, weighting only 1 to 3 kg.

Their head and neck are generally free of wool. Their pattern and shape of the wool is most like the Wensleydale sheep, but having smaller, tighter curls.

For producing mules, the Bluefaced Leicester rams are put over hill sheep ewes, which combine the prolificacy of the Bluefaced Leicester sheep with the hardiness and mothering ability of the hill sheep.

The ewes are highly prolific with an average lambing percentage ranges from 220 to 250 percent. However review full breed profile of this breed in the following chart.

Breed NameBluefaced Leicester
Other NamesDishley Leicester, Hexham Leicester, Bluefaced Maine, Blue-Headed Maine
Breed PurposeDual-purpose (meat and wool)
Special NotesLarge animals, very hardy and strong, well adapted to their native climates, have curly, fine, rather lustrous wool, fleece is not very heavy, ewes are highly prolific with an average lambing percentage ranges from 220 to 250 percent, good for both meat and wool production
Breed SizeLarge
WeightMature ram’s average body weight is around 110 kg, and the mature ewe’s average live body weight is around 89 kg.
Climate ToleranceNative climates
Country/Place of OriginUnited Kingdom

Interesting Facts about Bluefaced Leicester Sheep

Here are some interesting facts about these sheep breed:

Origin of Bluefaced Leicester Sheep: The Bluefaced Leicester sheep breed originated in Northumberland and Durham counties of England during the early 1900s. The breed was developed by crossing Teeswater and Leicester Longwool sheep.

Appearance: Bluefaced Leicester sheep have a distinct appearance characterized by their long face with a blue-grey skin color around the nose and eyes. They also have curly wool that is white or cream-colored with a silver luster. Their legs and hooves are black.

Body Size: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are large-sized animals with rams weighing between 220-300 pounds and ewes weighing between 150-200 pounds.

Dual-Purpose Breed: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are dual-purpose breeds. They are used for both meat and wool production. Farmers can get both high-quality meat and wool from these sheep.

Wool Production: Bluefaced Leicester sheep produce fine wool that is highly valued by the textile industry. The wool is known for its softness, luster, and strength, making it ideal for making luxury garments.

Fleece Weight: Bluefaced Leicester sheep produce a fleece of around 5-6 kilograms per year on average.

Staple Length: The staple length of Bluefaced Leicester wool is around 8-12cm, making it one of the longest wool fibers available.

Micron Count: The micron count of Bluefaced Leicester wool ranges between 26-30 microns. The wool is considered to be medium-fine.

Crimp: Bluefaced Leicester wool has a distinct crimp that gives the wool its unique texture and appearance.

Meat Production: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are known for their high-quality meat. The meat is lean, tender, and flavorful, making it popular with chefs and consumers.

Grazing Ability: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are good grazers and are known to thrive in upland areas with poor grazing conditions.

Adaptability: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are adaptable to different climatic conditions, making them suitable for farming in various regions globally.

Reproduction: Bluefaced Leicester sheep have high fertility rates and can produce multiple lambs per year, making them an excellent choice for farmers looking to increase their flock.

Lambing: Bluefaced Leicester ewes have high lambing percentages, typically giving birth to four or five lambs at a time.

Mothering Ability: Bluefaced Leicester ewes are known for their excellent mothering ability. They are attentive mothers who take care of their offspring carefully.

Longevity: Bluefaced Leicester sheep have a long lifespan, and they can live up to 12-14 years.

Temperament: Bluefaced Leicester sheep have a calm temperament, making them easy to handle and manage on farms.

Crossbreeding: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are often used to crossbreed with other breeds to produce hybrid lambs that have desirable characteristics.

Pedigree: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are pedigree animals and are registered with breed societies such as the Bluefaced Leicester Sheep Breeders Association.

Popularity: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are becoming increasingly popular among farmers and enthusiasts worldwide due to their unique appearance and versatile characteristics.

Show Competitions: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are regularly entered into show competitions globally, where they compete for prizes based on their unique features, wool quality, and meat production.

Conservation: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are classified as a rare breed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. The trust works to conserve rare breeds like the Bluefaced Leicester sheep, ensuring their continued existence for future generations.

Price: Bluefaced Leicester sheep are among the most expensive breeds of sheep. Their wool and meat are highly valued, making them a profitable investment for farmers who can manage their high costs.

Endangered: Despite their increasing popularity, Bluefaced Leicester sheep remain endangered due to habitat loss, crossbreeding with other breeds, and other factors.

Tips for Raising Bluefaced Leicester Sheep

Raising Bluefaced Leicesters is relatively easy and simple, even the beginners can raise them. There are some tips for raising these sheep:

  1. Select healthy breeding stock from reputable breeders.
  2. Provide adequate living space to prevent overcrowding.
  3. Ensure access to clean water at all times.
  4. Provide a balanced diet consisting of hay, fresh grass, and minerals.
  5. Monitor their health regularly to detect any issues early on.
  6. Vaccinate your sheep against common diseases.
  7. Keep their living area clean and well-ventilated.
  8. Protect them from harsh weather conditions such as extreme heat or cold.
  9. Use appropriate fencing to keep them safe from predators.
  10. Shear their wool at least once a year to prevent overheating.
  11. Trim their hooves regularly to prevent overgrowth and infections.
  12. Provide shelter during lambing season to protect newborn lambs.
  13. Keep accurate records of breeding and health history for each animal.
  14. Plan ahead for breeding and lambing season to ensure successful outcomes.
  15. Separate rams and ewes during non-breeding seasons to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
  16. Implement biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of diseases.
  17. Provide toys or other forms of enrichment to keep them mentally stimulated.
  18. Train your sheep to follow basic commands to facilitate management.
  19. Rotate pastures to prevent overgrazing and maintain soil health.
  20. Consider alternative uses for their wool such as spinning or felting.
  21. Participate in local and regional sheep shows to promote your flock.
  22. Join a local sheep association or club to network with other breeders.
  23. Continuously educate yourself on best practices and new research in sheep farming.
  24. Seek veterinary advice when necessary and establish a relationship with a trusted veterinarian.

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