The Hampshire Down is one of several breeds evolved in response to the need for more and more meat in the mid 1800s. Not surprisingly, its dominant parent is the Southdown. The Berkshire Nott, now extinct, the Wiltshire Horn and a primitive Hampshire sheep each supplied some of the female ancestry.
It is recorded that when William Humfrey, a Berkshire farmer, attended the first show of the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1839, he was so impressed by the quality of the Southdowns that he purchased a son of the Champion Ram and set about improving the sheep of his area.
By 1861 the Hampshire Down was a recognised breed and was allocated classes at the Royal Show. A breed society was formed and a flock book published in 1890.
Hampshire Downs were exported to America in 1855 where they quickly became a popular breed with the Hampshire flock book recording 20,000 head per year by the 1920s.
Arrival in Australia
Hampshire Downs were present in Victoria by 1861 where they were shown at Port Phillip Farmers Show by J. W. Brown and Cyrus Hewitt, but there is suggestive evidence that at that stage they were not persisted with.
Hampshires had a more permanent reception in Tasmania where they were introduced by William Hartnall in 1866. Of even more significance were two consignments which arrived in Victoria in 1888; one for the Hon. William McCulloch of Colac and the other of 25 ewes and 2 rams for the Hon. William Water-lrving of Pin-on Yallock.
Three Hampshire flocks were registered in Volume 1 of the Flock Book (1898) but Volume 27 (1935) recorded only one. By 1970 there were 11 flocks, but there was growth to over 50 flocks in the 1980's. Much credit for the maintenance of the breed through the 50s, 60s and 70s must go to E. E. & R. C. Cotton of Oberon, New South Wales. They were mating over 200 ewes in the 1970s and they exhibited and promoted the breed with enthusiasm.
Description of the Hampshire Down Sheep
Head: Face and ears of a rich dark brown - approaching to black, well covered with wool over the poll. A clear passage in front of the eyes is essential. Intelligent, bright, full eye. Ears well set on, fairly long and slightly curved. In rams, a bold masculine head is an essential feature.
Neck and Shoulders: Neck of strong, muscular growth, not too long and well placed on gradually sloping and closely fitting shoulders.
Carcase: Deep and symmetrical with the ribs well sprung, broad straight back, flat loins, full dock, wide rump, deep and heavily developed legs of mutton and breast.
Legs and Feet: Strongly jointed and powerful legs of the same colour as the face, set well apart, the hocks not bending towards each other. Feet sound and short in the hoof.
Wool: White of moderate length, close and fine texture, extending over the forehead and belly, the scrotum of rams being well covered, Suggested wool count 56s-58s.
Skin: Pink and flexible.
- White specks on face, ears and legs,
- Thick coarse ears
- Black wool
- Coarse wool on breeches
- Protruding or short underjaw
- Excessive strength and loose skin over neck
Prime lamb sire
26 micron and averages 90mm in length
Number of registered flocks in Australia
Number of registered ewes joined in 2008
For a further information on Hampshire Down sheep
Heritage Sheep Australia
11 Mona Place
South Yarra, Victoria 3141
Phone: 03 9820 4172