Heritage Breeds of The Sheep Trust


not rare breeds, a tradition of commercially farmed natural heritage


The Trust provided the first evidence for policy makers to demonstrate the geographical concentration of certain sheep breeds in the UK.


Working with Breed Societies and ~1000 individual breeders across the country, we put individual flocks ‘on the map’ and showed just how concentrated some breeds were in different regions.

We reported this work to the National Committee for Farm Animal Genetic Resources. Our evidence  led the specialists to recommend that 12 Heritage sheep breeds were at severe risk from their geographical concentration.

This endangerment is acute when infectious diseases enter their region, whether Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001, Blue Tongue Virus in 2007, Schmallenberg virus in 2012.


The Trust provided the first evidence for policy makers to show three Heritage breeds, all regionally farmed and adapted to upland moorlands and mountains were genetically distinct from one another.

Working with Breed Societies and individual breeders, we analysed the genetics of the Herdwick, Rough Fell and Dalesbred, using three different DNA-based tools and showed surprising and high levels of distinctiveness.

Our data show there is considerable genetic biodiversity in our Heritage breeds that may hold the key to sustainable farming as climates change and the need to protect national food security grows in urgency.