Bluefaced Leicesters and Border Leicesters
Bluefaced Leicesters and Border Leicesters are two of the three modern Leicester breeds. Leicester-breed sheep originated in the 1700s with Robert Bakewell’s research into improving strains of animals, developing what we now know as “breeds.” Prior to his pioneering work, many farmers bred animals according to personal lore or random chance. Bakewell’s improved Leicester was the progenitor of the Border Leicester, Bluefaced Leicester, and Leicester Longwool.
The Bluefaced Leicester is a distinctive sheep with a strong roman nose and black skin under white fur, creating a “blue” hue to the face. Used primarily for improving size, width, prolificacy and general conformation in Britain’s hill breeds, the Bluefaced Leicester excels as a crossing sire to create ewe offspring with the ruggedness of their Highland dams and the better frame and lamb production of their sires. The Bluefaced Leicester adds width, strength and finer wool in almost every cross with another breed. It has an almost exaggerated conformation with wide-set front legs, a broad, long back, long neck, and wide hips and hind legs. The first BFLs I got were half again wider and longer than my existing mixed-breed flock.
What I love about the Bluefaced Leicester is the size and grace of the animal and the fine, delightful wool it produces. The Blue is a fine dual-purpose animal in its ability to make fine meat and desirable wool simultaneously. That’s harder to find than you’d think.
Our BFL Sources
Our Bluefaced Leicester flock is sourced from several premier Midwestern flocks. We began our flock with a ram and ewes from Pitchfork Ranch in Michigan and Smiling Sheep Farm in New Hampshire. Our first adult ram came from Beechtree Farm in Michigan. In 2017, we received a handsome new ram lamb Terra Mia Farm in Oregon, with exciting lines from Jared Lloyd’s SonCroft Farm in Colorado. In 2019, we purchased a white ram from Paul Genge at 4G Farm in Washington State.
Last year, we added some new lines from Ohio, including sheep with parentage from Lisa Rodenfels’ famous and now-dispersed Somerhill flock. These sheep epitomize my conformation goals for the flock, and Lisa has been a valuable mentor to me as I start my BFL journey. We purchased additional ewes from BlueLand Farm in Maryland, from Sharon and Bill O’Donnell in Ohio, from Bernhardt Family Farm in Ohio, and from Anne Bisdorf at Wool’n’Wood farm.
The Border Leicester shares a strong roman nose and pert ears with its cousin breed, the Bluefaced Leicester. More compact and solid in build, the Border Leicester has a stronger meat production air about it. Unfortunately, because it doesn’t provide the same dramatic frame and lambing percentage improvements that the Bluefaced Leicester does, the Border Leicester has fallen out of favor as a crossing sire for creating mule ewes. Wool enthusiasts enjoy the glossy curls of a good Border Leicester fleece. The breed grows economically in the pastures of the North. Border Leicesters are reliable, hardy, pleasant sheep with sweet personalities.
I appreciate that the Border Leicester is less exaggerated in character and has a less delicate appearance. Hardier, more versatile and able to produce more wool and heftier lambs, the Border Leicester is a fantastic homestead flock animal. While the wool is slightly coarser, it is more abundant and beautifully glossy. Border Leicester wool wants to be a sweater or other outerwear garment. I am very fortunate to have been able to purchase some of the best stock available from a shepherd who raised Borders for 40 years.
Our Border Sources
My Border Leicester flock comes from three sources. The first, and most important, is Sue Johnson of Hinesburg, Vermont, who sold me 13 beautiful prime-age ewes in 2017 and another dozen in 2018. She spent 40 years perfecting her Border Leicester stock and it really shows. Sue has been very generous with time and advice for caring for the sheep – I am eternally grateful that she has entrusted me with a significant proportion of her life’s sheep-work. I purchased four additional Registered Border Leicester ewes from Sharon and Bill O’Donnell in Ohio. We also purchased a very handsome ram from Polly Hopkins at Maybe Tomorrow Farm in 2017. He is the sire of our 2019 Border Leicester lambs. Our 2020 herdsires come from Hands and Heart Farm in Charlotte and from Sarah Jakeman at Someday Soon Farm in New York.
Interested in Breeding Stock?
We are building our flock for the next few years and will have limited numbers of ewes available. We will have a good selection of rams available. Get in touch early to reserve your lambs in advance.