External Evaluators

Final Technical Report

Work Packages

Project - Meetings

Other Meetings




Heritage sheep data base





Southdown Sheep   EFABIS Data


International Name

Southdown Sheep

Local Name

Southdown Sheep


Sussex Downs

Breeding females



Trend of population size


Flock book established



Origin history

Sheep have grazed the South Downs of Sussex for centuries with the modern Southdown Sheep descended from these. 200 years ago John Ellman of Glynde improved the sheep by selection within that original breed. In the mid 20th century there was a move to reduce the size of the sheep which resulted in a fattier carcass and a less hardy animal.
The Southdown has been exported around the world and was for many years the main sire used for the production of New Zealand Canterbury Lamb.
By 1987 the breed in the UK was reduced in numbers to about 1300 breeding ewes. This trend was reversed when a small number of breeders worked to revert to the earlier type and improve vitality by using imported French and New Zealand bloodlines.

Breed description

The Southdown is now making its mark as a small farm meat producer, well suited to the modern market.
It produces a fast growing, prime lamb which as very marketable.
The rams reach a weight of 90 Kg, with the ewes up to 68 Kg. The rams are excellent for crossbreeding, producing good, marketable lamb.
The sheep are polled, with a fine, dense wool of even colour, not black. It is docile and easy to manage with an inherited tolerance to close confinement in fold or shed.
There has been a flock book since 1893. Records are kept of all pedigree rams and ewes.

Conservation activities

Southdown lamb marketing scheme for flocks within the South Downs National Park. The SW Regional breeders Trust is applying for funding from the Exmoor National Park Scheme. A study is being undertaken into the relative merits of the progeny of the Southdown, Texel and Suffolk rams.
Cryopreservation of semen, NSP Semen Archive storage, 3.567 doses.

Contact: The breed society is the Southdown Sheep Society

                Secretary: Mrs. Gail Sprake, Meens Farm, Capps Lane, All Saints, Halesworth

                Suffolk IP19 0PD. Tel: 01986 782251
                e-mail: secretary@southdownsheepsociety.co.uk
               Web site. www.southdownsheepsociety.co.uk

Action Heritage Sheep AGRI GEN RES 040 receives financial support from the European Commission, Genetic Resources in Agriculture, under European Commission Council Regulation (EC) No 870/2004 AGRI GEN RES 2006 HERITAGE SHEEP