Originating in the bare windswept hills between England and Scotland, the Cheviot was recognised as a hardy breed as early as the 14th century.
As with many other breeds, the Cheviot underwent a program of improvement in the late 18th Century when New Leicester infusions increased size and early maturity. If the Leicester can be said to have influenced all England, it was the Cheviot which spread north over all Scotland. The breed was given its name in 1792 by the great Scottish agriculturalist Sir John Sinclair, but it was farmer John Robson of Bowmont Water who led a group of breeders in the improvement of the breed.
When joined with the Border Leicester it produced the renowned Scotch half-bred which for well over 100 years has been the most popular and profitable prime lamb mother in Britain.
The Cheviot is an alert, superbly mobile sheep with a tough constitution, yet good fleshing qualities. Its dense fleece is the most valuable of all hill breeds.
Arrival in Australia
It is understandable that the introduction of Cheviots to Australia is credited to J. Walsh and Sons of Mt. Barker, South Australia, for their importations from New Zealand in 1938 as the Cheviot had dropped out of sight in this country for the previous 60 years.
However, Cheviots were amongst the first British sheep in Australia when they were brought to the North West of Tasmania by the Van Diemans Land Company in 1832. Financed by British wool merchants, the Van Diemans Land Company was one of the first big corporate ventures into Australian agriculture. Granted 250,000 acres in the North West corner of Tasmania, it soon found that the quality Merinos which it imported in 1826 could not thrive in the damp environment and several British breeds were introduced, among them Cheviots, in 1832. It is no wonder that the Cheviot and its crosses were successful in this situation for it brought with it generations of adaption to the cold rugged hills along the Scottish border.
In the 1830's the Van Diemans Land Company established ram depots in Victoria and South Australia and there is no doubt that Cheviot genes were spread from them. There was a further well documented importation in 1856 when a Launceston medic, Dr. Grant, landed a consignment which had been selected from the purest flocks on the Cheviot Hills.
The presence of Cheviots in Victoria is recorded in a report of the 1868 Ballarat Show which said that "in the section for Downs or black-faced sheep, only one Southdown was exhibited against the Cheviots", inferring that Cheviots were present in some numbers. The final appearance of the breed in the 19th Century may have been when pure Cheviots were exhibited at the 1875 Launceston Show.
In Australia it became popular in the 1950s as a sire of half-Merino prime lamb mothers, especially in marginal areas where its natural resilience could be exploited. That 1950's surge of popularity was fed entirely from New Zealand. In fact, it is safe to say that no imports came direct from England in the 20th Century. It is a parent, along with the Romney, of the Perendale, a breed developed in New Zealand in the 1950s.
Description of a Cheviot Sheep
Head: Hornless, medium size, wide forehead, free of all wool, covered with fine white hair, sometimes odd black spot
Face: Strong and clean, with wide black nostrils
Eyes: Dark in colour, and with sparkling appearance
Ears: Carried fairly erect, well covered with white hair, both inside and outside, with odd black spots sometimes showing
Neck: Strong, and of fair length
Shoulders: Well set on with plenty of heart room
Chest: Wide and deep
Back: Straight and fleshy
Ribs: Well-sprung with a good loin
Hind Quarters: Broad well-turned rump, with a well-filled leg of mutton
Legs: Short, set well apart, and covered with white hair
Skin:Healthy pink colour
Carriage: Very alert and stylish
Wool: Close and fine, free from roughness and kemp. Suggested wool count, 50 - 56.
General Appearance: Being a square-set, compact, white-faced sheep, with a close, fine fleece, and a very alert carriage
Dual purpose. Prime lamb sire
In between long wool and short wool breeds in length and handling. Used in the manufacture of durable tweeds and also used in hand knitting wools.
Number of registered flocks in Australia
Number of registered ewes joined in 2008
For further information on the Cheviot
Mrs Jan Duff firstname.lastname@example.org
Heritage Sheep Australia
11 Mona Place
South Yarra, Victoria 3141
Phone: 03 9820 4172