History of the Suffolk Breed

In 1930, Southdowns were described as large sheep without horns, with dark faces and legs, fine bones, and long small necks. They were low-set in front with high shoulders and light forequarters, however, their sides were good, rather broad in the loin, and were full in the thigh and twist. Today's Suffolk derives its meatiness and quality of wool from the old original British Southdown.

The Norfolk Horned, now rare, was a wild and hardy breed. Blackfaced, light, fleeced sheep, both sexes were horned. The upland regions of Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridge on the southeastern coast of England are very rugged and forage is sparse. It was this dry, cold and windy area in which the Norfolk breed adapted itself to traveling great distances for food, thereby developing a superbly muscular body.

It was said at that time of the Norfolk Horned that "their limbs are long and muscular, their bodies are long and their general form betokens activity and strength." This breed and its crosses were valued highly both by farmers and butchers. However, sheepmen of that day did not like the long legs, flat sides, nor wild nature of the Norfolk Horned. They noted that Southdowns crossed with Norfolk produced a progeny that reduced most of the criticisms of both breeds.

In 1886, the English Suffolk Society was organized to provide registry service and to further develop the use of the breed. Through selection and careful breeding by many great English sheepmen, the Suffolks brought to this country retained the qualities for which they were originally bred.

The first Suffolks were brought into this country in 1888 by Mr. G. B. Streeter of Chazy, New York. During a visit to England the previous year, Mr. Streeter had been greatly impressed by Suffolk sheep. These prize breeding animals had belonged to Joseph Smith of Hasketon, and one 21-month-old ewe weighed exactly 200 pounds when she came off the ship. A 9-month-old ram weighed 195 pounds and in the spring of 1890, a 7-week-old twin weighed 85 pounds. That spring, Streeter had a 200% lamb crop.

The Suffolk did not make its appearance in the western states until 1919. Three ewes end two rams had been donated by the English Suffolk Sheep Society to the University of Idaho. One of the rams was to be sold at auction at the National Ram Sale in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Several leading sheepmen saw these sheep at the sale and they liked what they saw. After several rounds of bidding, the ram was finally sold to Laidlaw and Brockie (developers of the Panama breed) of Muldoon, Idaho, for $500. These men were so impressed with the offspring from their Suffolk ram that they made several importations and were consistent buyers at the National Ram Sales.

Since that time, the University of Idaho has played a great part in developing and advancing the Suffolk in the western states.

Mature weights for Suffolk rams range from 250 to 350 pounds (113-159 kg), ewe weights vary from 180 to 250 pounds (81-113 kg). Fleece weights from mature ewe are between five and eight pounds (2.25-3.6 kg) with a yield of 50 to 62 percent. The fleeces are considered medium wool type with a fiber diameter of 25.5 to 33.0 microns and a spinning count of 48 to 58. The staple length of Suffolk fleece ranges from 2 to 3.5 inches (5-8.75 cm). Click Here for the Suffolk Standard.

The Suffolk breed is also known as the Blackface Norfolk Horned, Norfolk Horned, Old Norfolk, and Old Norfolk Horned

The Norfolk Horn

The Norfolk Horn is found in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridge, England. It is one of the ancient "Heath" breeds now being revived in small numbers. The Norfolk Horn was used along with the Southdown in the development of the Suffolk breed.

It is a medium-sized breed with a long body and legs. The face and legs are black or dark brown and free of wool. The fleece is white with new born lambs being mottled. Both sexes are horned and the horn pattern is an open spiral.

The breed was nearly extinct in 1973 and was revived by grading up Suffolk, Wiltshire Horn, and Swaledale to 15/16 Norfolk Horn. The result was initially referred to as New Norfolk Horn, but in 1984, the name reverted to Norfolk Horn. The breed is still almost extinct.

The Southdown

The Southdown were developed in Sussex, England, during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Documented importations were made into Pennsylvania from 1824 to 1829 from the English Flock of John Ellman. Later inportations from the Jonas Webb flock were made into Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois. These two men are considered by many to be the standardizers and main improvers of the breed. As expected, many of the early registered sheep were imported from England.

The Southdown is best-suited for farm-flock production. It is a medium to small-sized breed with a gray to mouse-brown face and lower legs, and is polled (hornless). Southdown are an early maturing breed with good lambing ability and average milk production. They excel in a crossbreeding program in their ability to produce meaty lamb carcasses at light weights and hot-house lambs. The Southdown is adaptable to varied and wet climates.

Mature weights for Southdown rams range in weight from 190 to 230 pounds (86-104 kg), ewes are slightly smaller and weigh from 130 to 180 pounds (59-81 kg). Fleece weights from mature ewes are between five and eight pounds (2.25-3.6 kg) with a yield of 40 to 55 percent. The fleeces are considered medium wool type with a fiber diameter of 23.5 to 29.0 microns and a numerical count of 54 to 60. The staple length of Southdown fleece ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 inches (4-6 cm).

For more information on the Southdown, contact:

American Southdown Breeders Association

HCR 13, Box 220

Fredonia, TX 76842

Phone: (915) 429-6226