About the Wiltshire Horn Breed
The Wiltshire Horn is a very old native breed and up until the end of the eighteenth century was the predominant breed to be found on the Wiltshire Downs. At this time the sheep were able to roam freely doing well on the poor terrain which offered little shade or protection. It is this background that has given the breed it’s hardiness and resilience.
The breed fell out of favour during the nineteenth century when the economy became reliant on wool. The breed was saved from extinction by a small group of enthusiastic breeders who formed the Wiltshire Horn Sheep Society in 1923. In the 1970's the breed came under the protection of the RBST because numbers were so low. In recent years the number of registered sheep has significantly increased and so the breed has developed into the large commercial flock it is today.
The growth in popularity of the breed is primarily due to it’s ability to shed it’s fleece. The Wiltshire Horn has a short fleece that naturally sheds in the spring leaving a short hair coat. The fleece will then grow again in the autumn to offer protection during the winter months. In an industry where wool production has become uneconomic the advantages of self shedding sheep are clear to see. The labour costs associated with wool are drastically reduced with no need to gather sheep for shearing, dagging or dipping.
For some time the breed has been popular with smallholders because of it’s easy care characteristics but more significantly the breed has now gained popularity in the commercial sector. The number of larger flocks in the Society has increased in recent years and there is a growing demand from farmers who, recognising the advantages of a self shedding breed, are turning to the Wiltshire Horn for both pure and cross breeding.
The large framed ewes are good, milky mothers and are equally suited to indoor and outdoor lambing systems. Both purebred and crossbred lambs have remarkable vitality at birth and will finish off grass growing to heavy weights without putting on excess fat.
The Wiltshire Horn breed is the traditional choice for the 21st century. It has the strengths of a native lowland breed, combined with low maintance and low input costs, and has the ability to meet the most stringent requirements of the modern sheep industry.