Southdown Sheep

The Southdown sheep is a dual purpose breed of domestic sheep from United Kingdom. It was developed in southeastern England, specifically in the Chalk Hills or ‘South Downs’ of Sussex.

It was developed during the late 1700 and early 1800s. The breed is historically one of the most important British sheep breeds.

It is highly valued for meat, fleece and also for improvement of other sheep breeds. The region from where the breed was developed has a mild climate, fertile soil and good grass that make it excellent for raising sheep.

Along with the native area, the breed is also available in some other countries. And it was exported to New Zealand and was used in the breeding of the Canterbury lamb.

It was consistent in qualities, and it was used in the development of several other sheep breeds, including the Hampshire, Oxford and Shropshire.

The Southdown Sheep Society was formed in 1890. Southdown sheep is recognized by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as a native breed.

Today the breed is popular among the small scale sheep breeders and raised mainly for meat production. Read more information about this breed below.

Southdown Sheep Characteristics

Southdown sheep are medium to large sized beautiful animals with distinctive appearance. They are sturdy, wide, deep, compact and refined.

They are usually of white color with mouse colored faces. They have wool on their faces, ears and legs. Rams and ewes are usually polled, that means they have no horns.

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Their wool is fine to medium, with a staple length of 4-6 cm, and average fleece weights 3-5 pounds. And fiber diameter is about 23-29 microns.

As a medium sized animal, average live body weight of the mature Southdown rams is between 86 and 104 kg.

And average live body weight of the mature ewes vary from 59 to 81 kg. Photo and info from Wikipedia.


The Southdown sheep are excellent meat producers. They are raised mainly for meat production.

Special Notes

The Southdown sheep are a very active breed of domestic sheep. They are relatively calm in disposition.

They are adaptable to varied and wet climates. They are excellent for meat production, and the high quality of the carcass has also been a hallmark of the breed.

Southdown sheep grow relatively faster, and they are efficient foragers. However, review full breed profile of the Southdown sheep in the following chart.

Breed NameSouthdown
Other NameNone
Breed PurposeMeat
Special NotesVery active animals, well adapted to the local climates, good for quality meat production, relatively calm disposition, well adapted to varied and wet climates, grow relatively faster, efficient foragers
Breed SizeMedium to large
WeightMature ram’s weight is between 86 and 104 kg, and weight of the mature ewes vary from 59 to 81 kg.
Climate ToleranceNative climates
Country/Place of OriginUnited Kingdom

Southdown Sheep Facts

Southdown Sheep are a unique and versatile breed with many interesting qualities. They are known for their friendly temperament, high-quality meat and wool, adaptability, and longevity.

Whether you are a small-scale farmer, homesteader, or hobbyist, Southdown Sheep are an excellent choice for those who want to raise sheep for both meat and wool production. Here aer some interesting facts about Southdown Sheep.

Origin and History

Southdown Sheep originated in the South Downs of England, hence their name. They have been around for over 200 years and were initially bred for their meat. In the early 19th century, Southdown Sheep were imported to the United States, where they quickly gained popularity among farmers and breeders.

Physical Appearance

Southdown Sheep are a small to medium-sized breed with a distinctive appearance. They have a broad and deep body, short legs, and a small, round head. Their wool is dense and soft, with a uniform crimp and a rich, creamy color.

Friendly Temperament

One of the most endearing qualities of Southdown Sheep is their friendly and docile temperament. They are known for their affectionate nature and enjoy human interaction. This makes them an ideal breed for hobby farmers and homesteaders.

Excellent Meat Quality

Southdown Sheep are known for their high-quality meat, which is tender and flavorful. They have a good meat-to-bone ratio and are popular among chefs and consumers alike. Southdown Sheep meat is also lower in fat than many other breeds of sheep, making it a healthier choice.

High-Quality Wool

Southdown Sheep wool is highly prized for its quality and versatility. It is soft, fine, and has a uniform crimp, making it ideal for a variety of textile applications. Southdown Sheep wool is used to make clothing, blankets, and other textiles.


Southdown Sheep are highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of environments. They are hardy and can withstand extreme weather conditions, making them a popular choice for farmers and breeders in many parts of the world.

Easy to Handle

Southdown Sheep are easy to handle and require minimal supervision. They are known for their docile temperament and do not require a lot of space or specialized equipment to care for them.

Dual-Purpose Breed

Southdown Sheep are a dual-purpose breed, meaning they are bred for both meat and wool production. This makes them an ideal choice for small-scale farmers and homesteaders who want to raise sheep for both meat and wool.

Popular Show Breed

Southdown Sheep are a popular breed for show competitions due to their distinctive appearance and friendly temperament. They are often used in 4-H and FFA programs, where young people learn about raising and caring for livestock.

Variations in Color

While Southdown Sheep are known for their creamy-colored wool, there are variations in color within the breed. Some Southdown Sheep may have black or gray wool, while others may have wool that is closer to white or beige in color.

Prolific Breeders

Southdown Sheep are prolific breeders, with ewes typically giving birth to twins or triplets. This makes them an ideal breed for those who want to increase the size of their flock quickly.

Popular Crossbreed

Southdown Sheep are often used in crossbreeding programs to improve the meat and wool quality of other breeds. They are particularly popular for crossbreeding with larger breeds of sheep, as they can help to produce offspring that are more compact and easier to handle.

Conservation Status

While Southdown Sheep are a popular breed, they are also considered to be a conservation priority by many organizations. This is due to their historical significance and their unique genetic traits.

Famous Flock

The Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, England, is home to one of the oldest and most famous flocks of Southdown Sheep. The flock has been in existence for over 200 years and is considered to be one of the best examples of the breed.

Popular in New Zealand

Southdown Sheep are a popular breed in New Zealand, where they are known for their excellent meat quality and adaptability to the local climate. They are often used in crossbreeding programs to improve the meat quality of other breeds.

Hardy in Cold Climates

Southdown Sheep are hardy in cold climates and can thrive in areas with harsh winter weather. Their dense wool helps to insulate them from the cold, making them a popular choice for farmers and breeders in northern climates.

Efficient Grazers

Southdown Sheep are efficient grazers and can help to manage pastures and control weeds. They are known for their ability to thrive on low-quality forage and can help to reduce feed costs for farmers.

Slow Maturing Breed

Southdown Sheep are a slow-maturing breed, meaning it takes longer for them to reach maturity than some other breeds of sheep. This can be an advantage for farmers who want to produce high-quality meat, as it allows the animals to develop more fully before being harvested.

Vulnerable to Predators

Like all sheep, Southdown Sheep are vulnerable to predators such as coyotes, wolves, and dogs. Farmers and breeders must take precautions to protect their flocks, such as using guardian animals or secure fencing.


Southdown Sheep are known for their longevity and can live up to 10-12 years if properly cared for. This can be an advantage for farmers who want to maintain a breeding flock over the long term.

Tips for Raising Southdown Sheep

Here are some tips for raising Southdown Sheep.

Provide Adequate Shelter

Southdown Sheep require adequate shelter to protect them from extreme weather conditions. The shelter should be large enough to accommodate the entire flock, and it should provide protection from wind, rain, and snow. It should also be well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of moisture and ammonia.

Provide Clean Water

Clean water is essential for the health and well-being of Southdown Sheep. They require access to fresh, clean water at all times, especially during hot weather when they may drink more than usual. Make sure to clean and refill water troughs regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria and algae.

Provide Adequate Nutrition

Southdown Sheep require a balanced diet that includes both forage and supplemental feed. They are primarily grazers, and they require access to pasture or hay to meet their nutritional needs. In addition, they may require supplemental feed during times when pasture or hay is not available, such as during the winter months.

Provide Adequate Grazing Space

Southdown Sheep require adequate grazing space to meet their nutritional needs. They require at least 2-3 acres of pasture per animal, depending on the quality of the pasture. Overgrazing can lead to soil erosion and the depletion of nutrients from the soil, so it is important to rotate grazing areas regularly.

Practice Good Health Management

Southdown Sheep are susceptible to a variety of health problems, including parasites, respiratory infections, and foot rot. To prevent these problems, it is important to practice good health management practices. This includes regular deworming, vaccination, and hoof trimming.

Provide Adequate Fencing

Southdown Sheep are active animals and require adequate fencing to prevent them from escaping or getting into areas where they should not be. Fencing should be at least 4-5 feet high and should be strong enough to withstand the weight of the sheep. Electric fencing can also be an effective way to contain sheep.

Practice Good Breeding Management

Breeding management is important to maintain the health and genetic diversity of the flock. It is important to only breed healthy animals with desirable traits. This includes selecting breeding stock that is free of genetic defects and has good conformation, meat quality, and wool quality.

Maintain Cleanliness

Maintaining a clean environment is important for the health and well-being of Southdown Sheep. This includes cleaning and disinfecting barns, feeders, and water troughs regularly. It also includes removing manure and other waste materials from the pasture to prevent the buildup of bacteria and parasites.

Monitor for Signs of Illness

Monitoring Southdown Sheep for signs of illness is important to catch health problems early. Common signs of illness include lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, and diarrhea. It is important to seek veterinary care if any of these symptoms are observed.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Emergencies can happen at any time, so it is important to be prepared. This includes having a first aid kit on hand, knowing how to administer basic first aid, and having a plan in place for emergencies such as severe weather or power outages.

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