Wensleydales

Wensleydale 2013, Wild Rose Farm

Wensleydale 2013, Wild Rose Farm

Photos courtesy Amahra Leaman and Wild Rose Farm, Whidbey Island, Washington.

AFE7D024-052B-4C71-B323-28ADD541170C

White Wensleydale washed wool that was hand flicked in preparation for lock spinning.

Wensleydale are another rare (in the US) breed of sheep that is being developed through an up-breeding program in the United States. One of the largest and heaviest breed of sheep, they have a noble bearing with long-stapled, lustrous wool that hangs in ringlets. In unshorn sheep, it can reach the ground. As a longwool breed, they are typically shorn twice a year. They have clean, noble faces with ringlets hanging over their foreheads. They are a striking breed, bold, alert and noble in their bearing with strong musculature and level backs. Naturally polled, they can be white, natural colored (shades of brown) or even black. Their heads and ears are deep blue-gray in color, one of the distinctive characteristics of the breed. They are a heavy breed, used as a dual purpose sheep originally bred to improve carcasses and heavy milking qualities in Europe. Their fleece is highly sought after by handspinners, weavers and fiber artists.

HISTORY:  The mating of a Dishley Leicester ram with a Teeswater ewe in 1838 produced a unique ram of great size, unique wool quality and a distinctive blue pigmentation of his head and ears. “Blue Cap” became the foundation ram for the Wensleydale breed. They were originally used to improve carcass quality in the hill sheep and resulted in hardy, prolific, heavy milking mothers.

In North American, the Wensleydale sheep came to the United States in the 1990s as part of an up-breeding program including Cotswold, Lincoln Leicester and Longwool Leicester. This is still a rare breed in the United States but their highly sought after wool is encouraging more breeders to become part of the preservation of this amazing breed.

WOOL:  Wensleydale wool is considered one of the finest luster longwools in the world.  Purebreds are considered kemp free.  Wool is bright and lustrous with purl (curl) all the way to the end.  Wool should be of equal staple from shoulder to breech, back and sides.  It is highly prized by fiber artists and can be used for texture and special effects in wool art.  It creates amazing texture and is wonderful in tail-spun type yarns!

WENSLEYDALES AT GREENMYST FARM:  I fell in love with the longwools and had a fascination with Wensleydale sheep for several years before finally realizing my dream and bringing a small group of bred high percentage ewes to Colorado from Wild Rose Farms in Washington state. I will be adding an AI ram at some point in the near future and hope to continue with a small but select group of Wensleydales and Teeswaters.

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