Many sheep breeds share names with the valleys close to our base in Yorkshire. It’s here since the Middle Ages farmers have been breeding sheep to cope with the often harsh conditions, as well as produce high quality wool and lamb. The high number of British breeds reflects the localised nature of sheep breeding, and each offers a different dining experience. With our commitment to heritage breeds, we source rare breeds wherever we can from our farmers, be they originally from Shetland or Swaledale, to offer various yet memorable eating.
The Badger Face Sheep is among the oldest native breeds of Wales. It was originally named “Defaid Idloes” after St Idloes, who was sainted in the 7th century. It has enjoyed a renaissance since the mid 1970s when farmers in Mid Wales established a breed society. Their meat is known for its quality, succulence, fine texture and excellent flavour.
Tasting Notes: Robust, Complete, Herbal
Blue Skinned Beauties from the Midlands
The Blue Faced Leicester is well loved for its curly, threadlike wool, and its ability to produce outstanding lamb. Their large frame and tremendous fertility means the Blue Leicester is often the ‘tup’ of choice for farmers cross breeding their flocks of breeds more suited to surviving on the windswept tops of Britain’s uplands, such as the Swaledale. Expect mildly flavoured lamb, which is typically well marbled and succulent, making it a perfect all rounder for steaks, chops, and roasting joints.
Tasting Notes: Meaty, Aromatic, Herbal
A Stocky French Favourite from the Saone Loire
The Charollais is a favourite of Parisian chefs, and its popularity has crossed the channel. British farmers like them, as the lambs they produce with our own native breeds are given the best of both worlds – hardy builds and outstanding meat. Ours mature on pastures in flat countryside, often from the Vale of York, where they grow big on wild flowers, herbs, and lush grass, informing the meat with the robust flavour that makes the lamb of Northern England so special.
Tasting Notes: Herbal, Mellow, Rounded
Medieval Mystery Sheep from the Scots Border
The Cheviot is something of a mystery breed. Bred in the hills of Northumberland, some say they’re Viking sheep, others say they’re descended from survivors of Spanish Armada ship wrecks. They fend themselves typically, foraging on the wild grazing of moorland, often in unforgiving conditions. This makes for tremendous lamb, gamey or herbal in character, but with a decidedly sweet and succulent aspect to it too.
Tasting Notes: Gamey, Mellow, Sweet
A hardy breed capable of surviving the harsh conditions of upland Dales terrain
Dalesbred sheep are long lived, capable of rearing strong lambs for many years even in harsh fell environments, due to being a reliable strong hardy sheep. The Dalesbred is a breed of domestic sheep originating in England. Derived from the Swaledale and Scottish Blackface breeds, the Dalesbred is a northern hill breed distributed in the Yorkshire Dales and into Lancashire. This breed is primarily used for meat and wool production.
Tasting Notes: Herbal, Mellow, Rounded
A large, sturdy sheep with a distinctive longwoolled fleece
The Devon and Cornwall Longwool is a hardy breed able to cope with most conditions and do well on most grazing. They're known for their massive fleeces and it is often said that they produce more wool per sheep than any other British breed. It is a very traditional West Country sheep and they're easy grazers, they thrive on grass and roots, and produce a fantastic meat that tastes like lamb used to taste. They are a lean breed with a little fat making the meat tender & tasty.
A Stocky, Powerfully Built, Lowland Loving Sheep
One of the oldest breeds of native sheep, the Dorset Down was developed in the early 1800s by crossing local, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire ewes with Southdown rams. The Dorset Down is a solid, thickset sheep able to cope with most conditions although not suited to the uplands. A stocky, powerfully built sheep similar in look to a Hampshire Down.
Tasting Notes: Fragrant, Sweet, Rounded
Stocky & Fluffy Southern Sheep
A true heritage breed, the Hampshire Down is an amalgamation of several other heritage British breeds, bred together over many centuries. They are fluffy creatures, renowned for their wool, and usually run together in smaller flocks. Up North, they tend to be seen grazing together on the pastures of the valley bottoms, rather than up on the valley tops where the grazing is sparser. Expect a leaner finish to the meat, though replete with succulence and natural sweetness.
Tasting Notes: Fragrant, Sweet, Rounded
Viking Sheep from the Western Isles
The Hebridean is a remarkable creature. The descendants of Viking sheep brought by Scandinavian settlers to the Western Isles, they are very tough, thriving in cold, wet climates on rough grazing. They’re an occasional sight in the more wild parts of the Dales and Fells. Recently, chefs have discovered the unique flavour of the breed, and we try and have it in stock as often as possible. The meat is unctuous and gamey in character, with a lean, sweet finish.
Tasting Notes: Herbal, Unique, Wild
The Symbol of the Lakeland Fells
The Herdwick is the symbol of the Lakeland Fells and an internationally recognised chef's favourite known for its well developed taste. This is thanks to the Herdwick's hardy demeanor, living on steep windswept hillsides, gaining weight slowly on naturally foraged food. Their origin is mysterious, seemingly introduced by Norse settlers, though others point to a wrecked ship of the Spanish Armada as the breed's foundation. Such stories complement the romanticism the breed inspires, winning the affection and support of both Beatrix Potter and HRH Prince Charles.
Tasting Notes: Gamey, Herbal, Unique
Ghosts of the Howgill Fells
The Kendal Rough is the breed of the Howgill Fells, that beautiful stretch of hills linking the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Often they appear like ghosts out of the mist and the bracken on the tops of the Fells, and are extremely hardy sheep, spending most of the year up on the tops. Their wool is prized in carpet making, but their meat is also making a name for itself, with succulence and flavour that owes to its wild diet of grasses and heather.
Tasting Notes: Unctuous, Long, Rich
Long legged for rocky hills and Pennine peat bogs
The name Lonk derives from the Lancashire word Lanky, meaning long and thin, usually in a person. The mysteriously-named Lonk sheep are thought to have been farmed by the monks at Whalley and Sawley, they are a native to Lancashire. Thriving in Lancashire's high places with a minimum of fuss, grazing in the sort of spots where most other breeds wouldnt be seen. Championed by Chef Nigel Haworth for many years and central to his signature Lancashire Hot Pot.
Tasting Notes: Coming Soon
Ancient Manx Sheep of Outstanding Lamb
The origins of the ancient Manx Loaghtan breed are lost in the mists of time. Native to the Isle of Man, these brown wool sheep look primitive and very rugged with their quartet of long spiky horns. Their mildly gamey meat is considered a delicacy, with its unique flavour, and has won plaudits from chefs across the world. Consequently numbers of this heritage breed are on the rise, as the great taste of this fantastic meat is rediscovered.
Tasting Notes: Complex, Primitive, Full
A Dales Beauty & Country Show Star
A country show star, the Masham is a common sight in the eastern Dales of North Yorkshire, and are showed off every year at the world famous Masham Sheep Fair. They’re a mixture of the Swaledale and the Teeswater breeds, both hardy hill sheep, and it’s from them the Masham has gained its trademark good looks. The lamb is typically of well proportioned quality, with a sweet edge to its natural character, and as a heritage breed, is well worth trying for its unique taste.
Tasting Notes: Balanced, Traditional, Creamy
A Farmers Favourite Cross Breed Sheep
The North of England Mule is hugely popular with sheep farmers. If you’re ever in the Dales, and think that a sheep looks almost like a particular breed, it’s probably a Mule. They are a cross between a lowland ram and a pure bred upland ewe. For our farmers this marries up the best traits of each, that is natural hardiness and the quality of the lamb. Mules promise excellent meat, with generous layers of fat, and deep flavour ideal either for sweet, succulent roasts, or warming slow cooks.
Tasting Notes: Sweet, Mellow, Rounded
A breed of exceptional quality and flavour
A stunning breed of lamb, the Oxford Down breed is a rare treat at Farmison & Co. The breed is a hardy and copes very well in harsher winter conditions. The whole body is covered with wool of close texture, good length, and fine quality to protect it from the elements while grazing outdoors, feeding on grass. Oxford lamb is also found to have excellent flavour and eating qualities, making it ideal for exceptional lamb cuts and joints.
A Favourite of the House of Tudor
The Ryeland is a true heritage breed, and a favourite of the House of Tudor. Queen Elizabeth I herself would only wear stockings from Ryeland wool. Often to be seen in smaller flocks on meadows or rich pasture, they’re now to be found all over the world, although numbers in Britain are a fraction of what they used to be. That’s changing as heritage breeders and chefs have rediscovered the quality of the meat, with plenty of natural fat cover, and succulent quality.
Tasting Notes: Creamy, Aromatic, Classic
The outstanding qualities of the breed are survivability, adaptability and versatility
Blackface lamb is naturally reared, symbolising the purity and goodness of the land and has a reputation for its unrivalled sweet flavour and tenderness.
All Blackfaces are horned, with black or black and white face and legs. There are several distinct types within the breed. These have evolved over the years, influenced by climate, environment and grazing quality. This gives the breed the advantage of being able to produce species to suit every climatic condition.
A Rare Breed Success Story
The exact origins of Shropshire Down is unclear but is generally believed to come about as a result of the improvement of the indigenous sheep of the Staffordshire and Shropshire border areas. These were hardy stock and produced wool of a superior quality. The Shropshire grows a particularly heavy, dense fleece. Once on the Rare Breed watch list, this breed has seen a recent resurgence in numbers thanks to an increase in demand. The meat from this breed is succulent, tender and full of flavour.
Tasting Notes: Gamey, Traditional, Rounded
A Hardy Viking Sheep From The Western Isles of Scotland
A small, athletic looking sheep that has something of the look of a gazelle about it, the Soay is an exceptionally hardy sheep and can survive in the most adverse conditions. Soay means “sheep island” in Norse which suggests that there have been sheep on the island since at least the time of the Vikings. The meat from the Soay sheep is considered lean, tender and low in cholesterol. It has a strong flavour with a gamey taste in comparison to more common sheep breeds.
Tasting Notes: Gamey, Clean, Lean
Stocky & Sturdy East Anglian Sheep
The Suffolk is a sturdy heritage sheep from East Anglia, the result of interbreeding between two other breeds, the muscular Norfolk Horn and the meaty Southdown. Traditionally the Suffolk is celebrated for the wonderful quality of its mutton, though are also a flagship breed for the excellence of British lamb, combining developed flavour with characteristic sweet succulence. This quality means the Suffolk can be found today all over the world.
Tasting Notes: Sweet, Complex, Matured
Hill Sheep Grazed On Wild Heather
The Swaledale is the sheep of the Dales. They adorn the signs for the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and can be seen themselves wandering the wild stretches between the valleys in search of foraging. Ours mature slowly, at their own pace, on the heather that grows on the tops. This gives the meat a sweet as well as robust and almost herbal flavour, with the Swaledale providing some of Yorkshire’s most renowned lamb and mutton.
Tasting Notes: Robust, Complete, Herbal
Elegant Sheep That Thrive on Heather
A most elegant sheep, the Teeswater is often said to have the most attractive of fleeces, with its long, fine locks. The breed is a common sight in the Dales and on the Moors of Yorkshire, though it hails from the heather-topped hills of Country Durham. Often cited as a mutton breed, expect lamb cuts leaner than other heritage breeds but no less in sweet succulence due to our Teesdales’ wild grazing on heather and grasses, which give its meat a unique, gamey character.
Tasting Notes: : Balanced, Traditional, Unique
Hardy Dutch Breed of Outstanding Lamb
The Texel is a relative newcomer to these Isles, but have been a huge hit with chefs, butchers, and farmers alike. Thick set and tough, they can thrive anywhere, producing some of the most consistent lamb with an even covering of fat, and meat that is sweet and delicate. Often to be seen in larger flocks, occasionally nibbling on turnips and sugar beet, this lamb is a great all rounder, perfect for steaks, chops and roasting joints.
Tasting Notes: Delicate, Sweet, Rounded
Wooly Mammoths of International Reputation
The Wensleydale is a country show star, and is a well loved heritage breed, traditionally bred in the Eastern Dales as the name suggests. Not as fleet footed as other Dales breeds such as the Swaledale, you often see these giants grazing on the valley bottoms on lush pastures. The meat is sweet and succulent, with an almost herbal quality to it, promising well proportioned cuts, whether steaks, chops, or roasting joints.
Tasting Notes: Herbal, Mellow, Sweet