breed location map

Regarded as the hardiest sheep breed in Britain, with exceptional hefting instinct and longevity under harsh conditions, the Herdwick has a white head and legs, is strong boned and has good conformation for a hill sheep. Lambs are born with black faces that lighten in colour over age, along with the fleece, which for this breed can be anything from brown to grey to cream, or a blend, but not spotted, and is exceptionally waterproof. Ewes are polled, while rams are usually horned, these being curling in type.
Although very different from other northern English hill breeds, the Herdwick is an ancient Lake District breed, this being the only place where it is present in commercial numbers, but also found in the central and western Dales. Due to its geographical location this breed was endangered in the 2001 FMD outbreak.
General Information


herdwick group


Average bodyweight of mature ewe: 35-45kg
Average bodyweight of mature ram: 66-75kg
Lamb carcass weight (from six months of age): 14-18kg
Wool Characteristics
Average fleece weight: 1.5-2kg
Staple length average: 15-20cm
Bradford count:  
Main uses: tweeds, carpets
Average Prolificacy
Shearling ewes (high hill): 75-80%
Mature ewes (high hill): 80-90%
Mature ewes (lowland):
 Main Uses of the Breed

They are renowned as long-lived sheep that perform comparatively well in their native harsh high fell environment, despite rarely receiving any supplementary feeding, yet still producing a quality lamb carcase very economically, with the meat produced being noted as of exceptional standard and well flavoured.

Herdwick rams are sometimes used with other hill breeds to improve hardiness, while Herdwick ewes are drafted down the hill to more productive pasture after three or four years, where they become much more prolific, with improved milk yield, and are then frequently crossed with a terminal sire or continental ram to successfully produce a well-framed butchers’ lamb.

The colour of the coarse kempy wool varies with the age of the sheep, enabling the production of naturally coloured fabrics by blending wool from different age groups.

 Shows and Sales

Prize shows are held at Cockermouth and Penrith.

Auction dates vary each year. Auction companies are:

Mitchells, Cockermouth, tel 01900 822016.
Broughton Auction Co (contact H & H Kendal Partnership, tel 01539 740037)
Penrith & District Farmers' Mart, tel 01768 864700

Also sold at NSA Wales and Border Ram Sale, Builth Wells, held in second half of September each year. Contact 01291-673939 for details.


 Society Details

Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association
Secretary: Mr G Brown, The Old Stables, Redhills, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0DT
Tel: 01768 869533
Website: www.herdwick-sheep.com

Breed Description compiled with help from The National Sheep Association


The Sheep Trust, a charitable company limited by guarantee.
Company Number 4284999, Charity Number 1094514.
Registered office University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, UK.