Black Welsh Mountain sheep produce a 1¼kg -1½ kg dense, fairly fine fleece. The tips of the black fleeces can bleach to a reddish brown, known as cochddu in Welsh (red-black wool). It has a medium staple length of 8-10cm and is very popular with weavers, home spinners and felt makers. The fleece is given BWMB Bradford count grading of 48 – 56.
Early Welsh writings from the Middle Ages give much prominence to the black fleeced mountain sheep. The wool was much sought after by the small, local woollen mills and numerous home spinners. Rural Ceredigion has a long history of sock knitting and during times of hardship during the nineteenth century whole families could be found to be supplementing any income by knitting and Tregaron market became well known for it’s trade in woollen stockings. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, leading Welsh stockmasters started selecting black lambs of good conformation and quality and bred them carefully to produce a pure strain of Black Welsh Mountain sheep. In 1920 the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep Breeders Association was formed to promote and protect the breed.
The breed is small and hardy with the average weight of a mature ewe being 45kg and a ram 60-65kg. They require no supplementary feeding and thrive on the short, rough grasses and herbage of the exposed hillsides and unploughable uplands. The ewes are polled (without horns) and rams sport an impressive pair of horns.
The breed has become more popular in recent years with numbers increasing throughout the British Isles. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust have re-categorised the Black Welsh Mountain from a minority breed (less than 3000 registered breeding ewes in the United Kingdom) to now being taken of the Watchlist.
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