British Sheep Breeds
The Kerry Hill
The Kerry Hill sheep is indigenous to the county of Powys in Wales and one of Great Britain's many indigenous breeds. It gets its name from the village of Kerry which is situated on the English/Welsh border near Newtown. The Kerry Hill has the Welsh name of Dafad Bryniau Ceri. The village of Kerry has its own 'Kerry Lamb Inn'. There is documentation dating back to 1809 and the first Flock Book was published in 1899. There were twenty-six founding members registered as breeds of the Kerry Hill.
The Kerry Hill is naturally polled (without horns). It is a hardy sheep with mature rams weighing from 65 to 70 kg and mature ewes from 55 to 65 kg. It has good legs and feet and is sturdy and well-balanced.
The Kerry Hill is not very common. It was on the 'watch' list of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust for some years but was removed in 2006. Holland imported some of these attractive sheep in 1992. A breed society has been formed and there is an annual lamb inspection each June. Each September there is an inspection of all ages with judges from Wales being invited to the event. Ass well as Holland, the Kerry Hill is found throughout the British Isles and also in Ireland.
The Kerry Hill has jet black patches on a white fleece. The patches are sharply defined and make for an eye-catching specimen. The nose and ears are black and the legs have black knees. Black markings from the hooves continue partway up the legs. Black patches surround the eyes and the high-set ears are covered with short, black hair.
The average fleece weight is 2.7 kg with an average staple length of 4 inches. It is one of the softest wools produced by any British breed and is dense with a good 'feel'. It is very white and of good quality.
The breed is healthy and tough. The ewes have excellent maternal instincts. A herd of breeding ewes is likely to have a lambing average of 1.8 lambs per ewe. Ewes are fertile with good longevity. The lambs are vigorous at birth and suckle well. By 12 to 14 weeks of age, they can be marketed at about 16 kg. If kept on as stores, they will still produce a nice lean carcass. The baby lambs are just adorable with their black ears, legs, noses, and eye patches.
The breed is a good forager and economic to feed during winter. Down breed rams, such as Dorset Down, Hampshire Down, Oxford Down and Southdown, are often put over Kerry Hill ewes to produce early maturing, lean prime lambs which have good conformation and length. When crossed with a Long Wool ram, the hybrid ewes are large and strongly built. Long Wool breeds include any of the Leicester breeds such as English Leicester, Blue-faced Leicester or Border Leicester.
The rams are strong and virile. The ram has an excellent reputation for producing crossbred ewes ideal for crossing with other terminal sires to produce lean prime lamb carcasses. The Kerry Hill crosses equally well with either Long Wool or Hill breeds.