Originally, we were attracted by the look of the Suffolk breed and after experiencing handling many other types of sheep while our family was part of the local 4-H program, we decided to try our hand at raising them. We have learned a lot from our Suffolk. Although they tend to be one of the bigger breeds of sheep they are relatively easy to handle and cooperative. We have enjoyed raising quality breeding stock for several years now, often showing a selection of our best at the fall fairs and exhibitions in the province. The ewe pictured here has personalty plus and is a lovely example of the breed.
The Cotswolds are a lovely addition to any small farm. We had an opportunity to work with this breed in another flock and was impressed by their size, easy nature and versatility. Wool is a new commodity to us. We have always raised purebred lambs for breeding stock and have only processed those lambs for meat that didn't meet the breed standard. As a result we didn't have much in the way of fleece or fleece that was desired for use and so never really learned much about that aspect of the sheep industry.
Surprisingly, Cotswold are a very rare breed in Canada, considering the fact that the breed was used to establish many of the popular commercial breeds available today, yet their many attributes lend themselves to improve lamb vigor in commercial flocks. However their ability to maintain a good size on less grain and produce an amazing fleece, makes the breed highly desirable for small farm flocks.
The Cotswold History
A BRIEF HISTORY OF COTSWOLD SHEEP
Over 760,000 Cotswolds had been recorded in the U.S. and Canada by 1914 through the American Cotswold Record Assn.
The breed was seen as a way of adding staple length to other breeds while not retreating from the size of the carcass or thickness of wool.
The main reason for its early popularity was because it did not require "high feeding," (in other words, large amounts of grain) in order to make good growth.
The Cotswold is today considered a fairly slow growing sheep. However, the Cotswold is quite unique in its ability to thrive where other luster longwool breeds might starve to death.
Cotswold sheep are usually calm and friendly. They mostly have white faces. Occasionally faces are mottled with some light gray or tan hairs. Small black spots are permissible on the "points" (non-wooly portions of legs, ears, and face), but the wool itself should be white. Hairs or “kemp” should be absent in the wool.
Cotswold hooves should be black, but are sometimes streaked with undesirable light or translucent color. Foot rot is very uncommon in this breed. Cotswold rams occasionally have small scurs (highly discouraged) but no Cotswold should ever have full horns.
Cotswold sheep do not have the tight-flocking instinct of western range sheep, preferring to spread out and graze enclosed pastures more uniformly. Some strains of the breed are not as prone to internal parasites as others, provided their grazing forages are not excessively short.
Noted for a very mild-flavoured meat. Even the Mutton of Cotswold sheep tends to be far less gamy-flavoured than even young lamb of many other breeds.
Lambs are very hardy once dried off after birth. They have small heads at birth, if the ewes are not overfed during gestation, and therefore are more easily born than some breeds. Cotswold ewes usually have a "narrow flank," once thought of as weakness, until it was observed that this characteristic assists in directing parturient lambs towards a "normal" birth presentation. Cotswold sheep live a respectably long time; it's not uncommon to see Cotswold ewes giving twins each year until well after 10 years old.
Cotswold wool is exceedingly strong, added by knitters to sock heels and toes to give extra strength to socks, and to elbows in hand-knitted sweaters. The wool attains 8 to 12 inches of growth in a year, and if not shorn promptly in early spring may become matted. It has a Bradford (spinning) count of 36s to 44s, most commonly around 40s. Generally, the tighter the curls of the fleece, the slenderer is the wool. Because the wool is so long it commonly parts on the sheep’s spine.
Cotswold sheep have since the days of Drayton and Camden in England (circa late 16th century to early 17th century) been noted as commonly having a slightly golden colored wool, dark colors having been noted as exceedingly rare. This trait gave them the nickname of the "Golden Fleece Breed." The Cotswold is the only breed having been associated with the fabulous cloth of gold in antiquity. Florentine merchants traveled to England and bought large quantities of the shiny, linen-like wool for this purpose, at least as far back as the 13th Century. Cotswold wool was used as a substitute for linen, woven with exceedingly fine wires of real gold, to make special garments for ancient priests and kings.
Today, Cotswold wool is especially luxurious when hand-combed using wool combs to make a true worsted roving. In true worsted wool there is little or no "itch," because all the tips of the fibers (as they grew on the sheep) point in one direction and the end sheared from the sheep's skin points in the other direction. This produces a knit very like mohair. In fact Cotswold wool has often been called "poor man's mohair."
What's in a Name ~
Some authorities claim (Elwes, 1893) the Cotswold breed was already in the Cotswold Hills when the Romans got there circa 54 B.C. Legend says there used to be sheepcotes or solidly built folds and that these cotes gave the name to the hills: "Cottes-wealds," in Anglo-Saxon, meaning exposed, windswept hills (wealds or wolds) dotted with Cotes. Thus it is said that the Cotswold Hills got their name from the flocks, which in turn got their name from the hills.
This Cotswold history is from several sources, primarily Wikipedia.org