|English Leicester sheep at Colonial Williamsburg|
I've been learning a lot about sheep in Colonial times. As a shepherd - as well as a history geek - I find all the information very interesting! Here are some of the highlights:
1) England did its best to prevent sheep from being imported to the colonies to protect their monopoly on the textile industry. The Dutch, however, were very successful at sneaking the animals in.
2) Sheep were raised primarily for wool. Lamb and mutton (any sheep over the age of 1 year) were rarely eaten. Colonists needed to cloth their families, so the sheep were more valuable as wool producers. Sheep and lambs that were eaten were likely animals who were injured or had some defect that made survival unlikely.
3) Sheep were smaller than the animals we see today. They matured at about 60 pounds. Today's meat lambs go to market at 6 - 8 months old and weigh around 150 pounds. Mature English Leicester ewes (also known as Leicester Longwool) today will weigh up to 200 pounds. Quite a change from the 60 pounds in Colonial times. Rams can reach 300 pounds.
4) George Washington was very interested in sheep. He imported (apparently, once sheep were well-established in the colonies, England lifted the ban) English Leicesters and bred to improve the breed. He was one of many Colonial farmers interested in genetics and animal husbandry.
|Katie - English Leicester ewe lamb at Twin Willows Farm|
Last month this little girl came to live on our farm. She's an English Leicester ewe lamb, about 12 weeks old in this photo. Besides being a good wool producer for this handspinner, she's also a piece of our American history. Who knows, she might even be a direct descendant from that long-ago flock owned by President George Washington.
Debut story releasing in April 2017 from Barbour.