Henry Stewart.

The shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep online

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goods. The ewes are prolific breeders and excellent mothers.
These sheep, as they are now bred, are without horns and with
dark brown or black faces and legs. The size is medium ; the
body round and deep ; the forequarters are wide and deep, and the
breast is broad. The back is broad and level ; the rump square and
full, and the thigh full, and massive. The legs are short with fine
bone. The form is smooth, even, fine, and symmetrical, without
coarseness or angularity in any part. The habits of these sheep
are active, and they are docile and contented. They are able to
accommodate themselves to any district, or style of farming, where
moderately good pasturage is to be had, and are well suited as
gleaners upon an arable farm. Mr. Webb's farm was mostly all
under tillage. For the improvement of our native sheep in a par-
ticular direction, they arc not to be surpassed, and in this respect
they rival the Cotswold. Indeed, there is scarcely a cross-bred
race of sheep in England, or Europe, but has been indebted to the
Southdown for some of its smoothness, rotundity, hardiness of
constitution, and excellence of flesh. It is an excellent feeder, its
lambs are active and hardy, and as the producer of market lambs
from grade or pure Merino ewes, the Southdown ram has no su-
perior, or equal, if the favor with which the dark faces and legs
of the lambs are received by butchers is considered There are no
fatter lambs come to market than those of a cross of Southdown
and Merino. The Southdown has become thoroughly naturalized
in America, and its dark face and compact fleece, impervious to
the heaviest rains, have left their mark upon a large proportion of
our natives, ranking in this respect next to the Merino.

THE HAMPSHIRE-DOWNS. The Hampshire- downs have of late
rapidly risen in favor. Previous to our late war, many of them
were imported into the southern states under the impression that




they surpassed their rivals and progenitors, the South downs, in
adaptation to the climate. Amidst the vicissitudes of a state of
war, no stock so rapidly suffers and disappears as sheep, and as
Spain lost her Merinos in the French war of last century, so it is
probable that the south has lost her Hampshire-downs. It is a
valuable race of sheep, occupying a place where a larger animal
than the Southdown is required. It originated in a cross made
about 70 years ago between a native, white-faced, horned sheep of
the district, and the pure Southdown. The prepotency, or natural
vigor and force of the Southdown ram, entirely changed the char-
acter of the breed in a few generations. The horns disappeared,
the face became black, the frame was made more compact, the
back broader and straighter, the barrel rounder, the legs shorter,
and the quality of the flesh superior. The cross retained its
ancient hardiness, its Roman nose, and massive head, and large
size. It became, in fact, a larger Southdown, maturing at an early
age, and faMing rapidly. The large size of the lambs of this breed
make it specially valuable under certain circumstances ; at a year
old they weigh 80 to 100 Ibs. The fleece reaches a weight of 6 to
7 Ibs. of wool suitable for combing, being longer than that of the
Southdown, and not so fine. The mutton of the Hampshire-downs
is not overloaded with fat, and has a good proportion of juicy, well
flavored, lean meat. Tins breed is occasionally crossed with the
Cotswold, when it produces a wool more valuable for the worsted
manufactures than that of the pure Cotswold.

THE DORSET SHEEP. This is a breed which Inhabits a district
in the south of England, where it has been preserved intact for a
long period. It has some very valuable characteristics, one of tho
chief of which is its fecundity, and its ability to breed at an early
season. The Dorset ewes take the ram in April, yean in Septem-
ber, and the lambs are fit for market at Christmas. A large pro-
portion of the ewes produce and raise twins or triplets. A flock
is mentioned owned by Mr Pitfield, of Bridport, Dorset, Eng., con-
sisting of 400 ewes, which raised 555 lambs in one season. The
ewes are ready 'for the ram immediately after yeaning, and may
thus produce two crops of lambs in a year. Where market lambs
can be disposed of, this peculiarity may be turned to good account,
and with great profit. Both rams and ewes are horned. They
have white legs ; white, broad, and long faces, with a tuft of wool
on the forehead ; black nose and lips ; low, but broad shoulders ;
straight back and deep, fuL brisket ; the loins are broad and deep ;
the legs are rather long, but light in the bone. A related and
neighboring breed known as " Pink-nosed Somersets," have pink





noses, and are not so valuable. The Dorsets are hardy, very quiet
and docile, and submit to any reasonable management with facili-
ty, adapting themselves readily to changes. They mature early,
weigh 100 Ibs. dead weight, at two years old, when folded upon
turnips alone, for which kind of feeding they are well suited. The
fleece is close and heavy, yielding 6 Ibs. of white, soft, clean wool
adapted to combing purposes. The lambs are sheared for their
fleeces of " lambs wool." When crossed with the Southdown, the
Dorset ewes produce mostly single lambs, which, when shorn, yield

Fig. 39. DORSET EWES OF MB. PiTFiEi/o's FLOCK. (From a Photograph.)

about 2 Ibs. each of valuable wool, and make, when mature, a
larger and better feeding sheep, with a heavier and finer fleece
than the dams. A few Dorsets have been introduced into Vir-
ginia, but have attracted no notice beyond the simple fact of their
existence there. They certainly possess some valuable points for
our use which should make them good subjects for experiment.

THE CHEVIOT. The Cheviot hills traverse the boundary be-
tween England and Scotland. These hills have given their name to
a very hardy breed of sheep, the origin of which is perhaps some-
what fancifully dated back to the attempted invasion of England
by the Spanish Armada. When this formidable and dreaded fleet
was wrecked upon the stormy British coasts, it is said that some
of the sheep with which the ships were provided, swam ashore and
escaped to these hills, where they bred and multiplied. They
were originally small, light-boned, hardy sheep, and were spread
over most of the hilly part of the Scottish lowlands. A hundred
years ago the attention of breeders was drawn to the Cheviots, and
they were greatly improved in size and value. It is said that a




Lincolnshire cross was used for this purpose, and that a Leicester
cross was tried and failed. It is now a most useful breed, and
when fed upon sweet, dry herbage, produces a very choice mutton,
much sought after by the epicure. It is without horns, the head
and legs white, but sometimes, though rarely, dun or speckled, the
face good, but strong featured and massive ; the eyes lively ; the
body long, set upon clean, fine legs ; the hindquarter and saddle
full and heavy ; the forequarter light, as in all mountain breeds,
and in habit they are quiet, docile, and submissive to restraint. As
a mountain breed they stand first in every respect, and yet are
very useful lowland sheep. They fatten quickly on turnips, after
pasture, without grain, and make a dressed weight of 80 Ibs. at 3
years old. The ewes are good mothers, and the lambs are very
hardy, spending the whole season on the hills without shelter, ex-
cept in drifting storms of snow, when, without protection, they
would be in danger of being buried in the drifts. The final dispo-
sition of the Cheviots, when full grown, is to be sold to southern
farmers, who raise a crop of cross-bred lambs by a Leicester ram,
and fattening the ewes when the lambs are weaned, sell both to
the butchers, turning over their capital with interest within one
year. Upon good pasture the fleece becomes fine, and sells for a
higher price than when they are fed upon coarse grass. The
fleece yields about 5 Ibs. of medium wool, which furnishes the
material for the useful and fashionable Scotch tweeds and Cheviot
cloths. No wool is in greater or steadier demand than this class
of clothing wool.

THE BLACK-FACED SCOTCH SHEEP. This breed is without
doubt the oldest hi Scotland. The story of its origin is obscured
by tradition. It is known, however, to have existed, much as it
now is, for several centuries, having disputed possession of the
hills whereon Norval's " father fed his flock," with the wolves and
foxes of the semi-civilized period, which preceded the last political
settlement of Scotland with England. Since the union of the two
countries, great improvements have taken place in Scotch agri-
culture, and the Black-faced sheep have gained with it. They are
a horned breed, the horns of the ram being massive, and spirally
curved. The face is black, with a thick muzzle ; the eye is bright
and wild ; the body square and compact, with good quarters and
abroad saddle. They are very muscular and active, and remarka-
bly hardy, able to endure the privations incident to a life of con-
tinual exposure upon bleak and storm-beaten mountains. Only
the heaviest snow-drifts, followed by thawing, freezing, and crust-
ing of the snow, overcome them. They instinctively herd together




in storms, and although completely buried in a snow-drift will
manage to push the snow from their bodies and form a cave over
them, in which they will live upon what scanty herbage may be
within their reach, until help comes. Thus buried, these sheep
have lived for two or three weeks before they have been found
and extricated After every storm the shepherd's first duty is to
explore the drifts and release the imprisoned sheep and lambs.
This hardiness fits them for their roving life upon their rocky
heather-covered pastures, the heather in part furnishing their sub-
sistence. They dig the heather from beneath the snow, or -feed
upon it when all else is covered. They are docile, and easily
handled with the help of the sagacious Colley dogs, and are gen-
erally sufiiciently able to help themselves in emergencies. Their
activity is such that the dog is sometimes unable to head off a
straying flock, or even to get abreast of it when instinctively
bound to change their abode. Three days before a storm they are
on the alert, and seek lower ground and shelter. At lambing
time, the ewes find retired spots, and year after year return to
the same locality to rear their lambs. When removed from their
native haunts, they have been known to journey night and day a
distance of 60 miles, and to swim a large river, to return to their
old pasture grounds. As ah instance of the sagacity and activity
of the sheep, it is recorded that a small flock which were thus on
the way to a former pasture ground, were obstructed by a canal
which had to be crossed. As they could not easily pass this ob-
stacle, the flock, headed by an old wether, traveled along the bank
until they overtook a canal boat which was passing along in the
center of the canal. The cunning wether sprang on to the boat
and thence to the opposite bank, the whole flock following in In-
dian file. These sheep are kept in large flocks, sometimes of sev-
eral thousand, and frequently of one to four thousand. The
lambs will survive a surprising amount of cold and hunger, and are
on their feet almost at the moment of birth. The ewes take the
greatest care of their lambs, and will remain with them for several
days, even after accidental or untimely death.

The mutton of this breed is of peculiarly fine flavor, and the
saddles are in great request. The carcass weighs about 65 Ibs., and
the fleece averages about 3 Ibs. of washed wool. The breed im-
proves easily under the care of a judicious breeder, but the natural
qualities of this sheep are such that it is fitted for a place where
no others would profitably thrire, and a change in its character
that would cause it to lose this quality would unfit it for its posi-
tion, and deprive it of its chief value. How vast the room in our


exposed mountain localities, or on our unsheltered northern plains,
for such a sheep as this ; a race hardy and self-dependent, and
that would produce choice mutton, and a fleece well adapted for
rural manufactures of coarse cloths, carpets, blankets, and rugs.

THE WELSH MOUNTAIN SHEEP. This breed is said to be one
of the indigenous races of Britain. Formerly, it probably roamed
over hill and lowland of the whole of Wales and adjoining parts
of England. Of late, more profitable breeds have usurped its
place in the cultivated lowlands, and have driven it into the re-
motest pastures or stretches of barren moor, bearing only gorse
and heather, upon the sides and summits of the Welsh mountains.
Here it has so far found a resting place, furnishing those very
small, but highly appreciated legs and hind quarters, which are
valued on the tables of wealthy Englishmen as the rarest deli-
cacies. These legs weigh about 4 Ibs., and the whole hind quar-
ters from? to 10 Ibs., and are sold at the confectioner's and fancy
grocer's shops, at two or three times the price of ordinary mutton.
A recollection of the tender sweetness of one of these Welsh legs
is apt to give a higher appreciation of these small sheep than
might be profitable for a farmer to entertain, yet it is a question
if there are not many localities amongst our mountain ranges,
where flocks of these small hardy sheep could be kept with profit.
As might be expected, these sheep are hardy and good nurses to
their lambs, rarely producing more than one, except when crossed
with improved breeds. The rams are horned, but ewes rarely
so ; their faces are white, rusty brown, speckled, or gray. The
head is small and is carried high ; the neck long ; the shoulders
low ; the rump high ; the chest narrow ; the sides flat ; and the
girth small. The average fleece yields about 2 Ibs. of wool, the
best of which furnishes the material for the valued Welth flannel,
which never shrinks in washing, and of which sheets and blankets
are made that last a lifetime. The Welsh wool is all home-spun,
and is woven at home into all sorts of clothing and domestic
goods ; the farmers and their families being wholly clothed in
woolen. The cloths are home dyed, either black, blue, or red.
The red cloth furnishes the material for the women's cloaks, which
are universally worn, and which when a French army landed on
the Welsh coast, in 1797, were mistaken by them for the red coats
of British soldiers, and ltd to their immediate and unconditional
surrender before the mistake was discovered. This race of sheep,
comparatively so puny, is a source of much comfort and wealth to
the Welsh people, and attempts to supplant it by the Cheviot and
Black-faced sheep, have so far failed. No other sheep can com-




pete with them on their native mountain tops, and none are more
profitable on the lowland pastures, than a cross upon them of
small pure-bred Southdowns, Cotswolds, or Leicesters. The flocks
usually kept number from 50 to 500 head.

of Spain, France, and Germany, although they now possess differ-
ent characters and habits, have the same origin. The French,
Saxon, and Silesian flocks, were all originally from Spain. The
Spanish Merino existed as a distinct race 2,000 years ago, and the
fine robes of the Roman Emperors were made from the wool of
the Spanish flocks. There is no history or tradition as to their
origin which can be accepted as reasonable by any practical
shepherd. It is probable, however, that the fine wooled
sheep, which we read of in the ancient histories, were rather
the natural product of very favorable conditions of soil and
climate by which inferior races were greatly improved, than of
any direct efforts to breed them up to a desired standard. Yet
luxurious Romans may undoubtedly have created a demand for
fine wools, which Spanish shepherds knew how to produce by
coupling suitable animals, for the art of breeding was well under-
stood in those ancient days, and many of the maxims of modern
breeders are simply reproductions of those in vogue as long ago as
the early Christian era. The finest sheep of Spain, when they
first attracted notice, were found widely scattered over that coun-
try, divided into varieties occupying distinct provinces, and those
varieties, again, were subdivided into large flocks, owned by
wealthy proprietors, each of which flocks possessed such marked
characters as would entitle it to be considered as a distinct family
or sub-variety. The system of culture by which these various
families became possessed of their special characteristics, are well
described in an essay by Dr. R. R. Livingston, which was pre-
sented to the Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts, of New
York, in the year 1809. It is unnecessary here to do more than to
refer to this work. It is sufficient to record the fact that, at a
very early period of modern history, Spain possessed the only
valuable flock of fine wool sheep in the world, and that all other
naturalized races of Merino, our own included, have been derived
from that country. It may be added, that to a great extent, if not
altogether, Spain has lost her pre-eminence, and breeders do not
now resort thither for fresh importations. The Spanish sheep are
estimated to number ten millions, in which are included Merinos
of the two now remaining families, the Infantado or Negretti, and
the Escurial, and various other fine and coarse wool sheep. The


Negretti sheep are of more interest to us than any other of the
Spanish sheep, as it is of this breed alone that any are now
brought to this country. The Escurial sheep are of little value to
us, either for breeding or crossing with our own. They are rep-
resented here by the Saxon and Silesian Merino, which have de-
scended from them, as will be hereafter explained. The Merino
cannot thrive in a moist climate. A wide range of dry, upland
pasture is necessary for them, and they do not require a very nutri-
tious herbage. Wet pastures are very unhealthful for theia, and
the liver rot and diseases of the lungs carry them off from a large
flock by thousands, in unfavorable seasons. On this account, the
Merino has not thriven in England, and it now exists and thrives
in those countries only where the climate is dry and warm, or
even hot.

THE FRENCH MEBINO. As this variety has been imported to
some extent into the United States, and possesses some value for
crossing upon our native Merinos, or other sheep, it is important
to notice its character and peculiarities. It originated from an
importation of a flock of over 300 Spanish sheep, selected from
the finest flocks of Spain in 1786. This flock was placed upon a
public farm, for the improvement of stock, at Rambouillet, near
Paris. In the selection from various sources, it appears that the
flock was of a mixed character, but by careful breeding, through
a course of years, the differences became merged into a breed of
sheep, which surpassed its ancestors, in the opinion of its French
owners. It was in increased size of carcass and weight of fleece,
that the improvement was chiefly, if not wholly, made. In 1825
they became the largest pure Merinos in existence, with remark-
ably loose skin, and immense neck-folds. In 1842 there were
flocks of these sheep in France, whose fleeces weighed 14 Ibs. for
ewes, and 20 to 24 Ibs. for rams. At this time a flock was imported
into this country by Mr. D. C. Collins, of Hartford, Ct. The wool
of these sheep was considered by a competent judge as equal to
the best Spanish Merino wool. It was of a brilliant, creamy color,
on a rich, soft, pink skin, which was loose and wrinkled. Their
form was fine, their constitution excellent, and in size they were
much larger than the American Uerino. In 1846, Mr. Taintor,
also of Hartford, commenced to import these sheep. His rams
sheared from 18 to 24 Ibs. of unwashed wool, and ewes from 15 to
20 Ibs. The ewes weighed alive from 130 to 200 pounds, and the
rams from 180 to 300 pounds. There was much less yolk or gum
in the fleeces than in those of the Spanish sheep, and there was
consequently less loss in washing the wool.



The French Merino soon spread through the northern states,
but many breeders became dissatisfied with their tenderness,
as compared with the Spanish breeds, and they rapidly fell into
disfavor. They were not fitted for our rough farming, and re-
quired more care than American farmers are inclined to give to
their stock. The best of these animals were found, with proper
care, to be profitable, but the inferior ones were entirely worth-
less. Under such circumstances it is not surprising that they
should fall out of the race in competition with naturalized Spanish
Merinos, which, even when inferior, were still valuable, in propor-
tion to the good qualities they retained. In France the Merinos


have favorably competed with the English breeds as mutton sheep,
and it is only recently that the French agricultural journals
are beginning to compare the profits from the Southdowns with
those from the Merinos.

At the Vienna International Exhibition in 1873, the French
Merinos were largely represented, and were very favorably
noticed. The specimens there exhibited were large and well
formed, the skin was free from large folds or wrinkles, and the
wool was long, fine, strong, and thickly set on the skin. The best
of them, however, came from Germany. The ram, whose portrait
is here given, was exhibited by Herr Kannenberg, of Gerbin, near


Kosternitz, in Pomerania. Its wool was 3 inches in length, very
thick upon the skin, very equal in quality, of fair strength, and
covered the legs and ears. The sire of this ram clipped 27 Ibs. of
unwashed wool, which, when washed in hot water, yielded 17 Ibs.
of clean wool. Ferdinand Schwartz, of Lappenhagen, exhibited
a French, (Rambouillet), Merino ram, whose fleece weighed, un-
washed, 31 Ibs., equal to 15 Ibs. of washed wool. This animal
had three neck-folds, but no "rose" or rump fold. His wool was
2f inches long, and thickly set upon the skin.

Prince Schaumberg-Lippe, of Post Stalitz, Bohemia, exhibited
some combing or delaine wool Merinos, of French blood, whose
fleeces were of the extraordinary length of 5 to 7 inches. The
yield of the whole flock, of more than 800, is said to average 14
Ibs. per head of unwashed wool, which shrank in scouring in the
factory, 58 per cent. It is impossible to consider the excellent
points and intrinsic merits of the well bred French Merino, and its
poor success, so far, in this country, without being forcibly remind-
ed of the lack of wisdom of a course frequently and periodically
pursued by American breeders and farmers, and nowhere more
strikingly shown than in the past experience of our sheep husbandry
with its sudden and excessive vicissitudes. The ' * ups and downs "
of this industry, every few years, is one of the strangest manifesta-
tions of unsteadiness ever recorded in any pursuit It is unfortu-
nate for us that we can hardly restrain ourselves from over san-
guine expectations on the one hand, or on the other hand, when
results do not meet our anticipations, from the utmost depression.
Being too ready to form opinions, and to act in obedience rather
to our sudden impressions than to our mature judgments, we enter
into new enterprises without consideration, and abandon them in
a panic. Thus a thing excellent in itself, and of inherent value
to us, is extolled to the skies without justice at the outset, and
then with equal want of justice, is condemned and sacrificed as
utterly valueless, because it has failed to turn all it touched into
gold. This is the history of all our agricultural manias. And the
French Merino has been made the subject of just such exalted ex-
pectations, and of just such deep denunciations. Yet there is a
place for this breed in our agriculture which it will hold and keep
at some period in the future in spite of past adverse experiences.

THE SAXON MEBINO. In 1765 the King of Spain, on the appli-
cation of his brother-in-law, Prince Xavier, sent 300 Merinos of
the Escurial family into Saxony. These sheep, naturally the finest

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Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 11 of 23)