The Romney is one of the oldest known sheep breeds, having been developed over several centuries from European white-faced, long-tailed sheep and from Leicester sheep.
It is a hardy and adaptable lowland breed, particularly in its indigenous areas of the Romney Marsh and the lowlands of the south east coast of Kent and Sussex in England. The breed was originally known as Kent Sheep. It then spread all over the world and the name Romney came into general use.
The geographic and climatic conditions of the English lowlands led to the development of specific characteristics in the breed, which include black hooves resistant to footrot, resistance to internal parasites, excellent fertility and milking/mothering ability, fleeces that withstand high rainfall and a constitution that tolerates harsh, wet conditions.
Romney provided the foundation for the English woollen industry because the long, dense fleece was highly prized.
Romney sheep were exported internationally early in the 19th Century when a shipment was sent to New Zealand. Today the breed is distributed throughout England, New Zealand, Australia, Patagonia, Canada, Brazil, Portugal, Falkland Islands and the United States. Romneys have made an easy transition to New Zealand, where they became quickly established and still remain the predominant breed.
Arrival in Australia
The Romney was first imported into Australia in the 1800s, with reports of some arriving as early as 1839, others in 1853, and a confirmed shipment in 1872.
Description of Romney sheep
It is a large, dual purpose sheep producing strong, heavy wool and very good lambs, with a large proportion of twins. Crossed with other wool breeds the Romney will produce an ideal prime lamb mother with extremely good wool production.
Carriage: the Romney is a well-balanced, stylish sheep with free movement.
Head: the head, carried high, should be expressive of quality, character, and gender. The forehead should be broad and level between the ears. The ears should be of a good size, thick and felty /velvety and free of black spots. The poll should be wide and well covered with wool, free from kemp or gare. There should not be horns or scurrs as either are unacceptable. The eyes should be large, bright and prominent, giving a look of alertness and vigour. The face should be full, and covered with a soft creamy, down hair (kemp), almost free of wool. The nostrils should preferably be broad, open and coal black. The jaw and muzzle should be wide and strong with teeth meeting the pad correctly.
Body: the neck should be strong and smooth and neatly joined at the shoulders and should be no longer than necessary to preserve the balance and symmetry of the animal. The shoulders should be well coupled and fit smoothly into the skeletal structure of the sheep. The shoulder blades should fit neatly and must not be open or protrude above, or even reach the level of the spine. A flat heavy shoulder should be avoided.
Feet and Legs: the feet should be of a sufficient size, and so shaped, that the toes will open with the weight of the body and preferable be coal black, although streaky coloured hooves should not be disqualified. The pasterns should be strong and springy, and all the legs set at points of perfect balance. Legs should track squarely and straight – being neither bow legged or knocked kneed, post legged or sickle hocked. The cannon bone should be of sufficient length to maintain adequate height off the ground. Hocks should be strong and set well apart, straight hocks as with straight pasterns, are not acceptable. Legs, below the wool line, should be covered with white hair, (kemp) brown or dark hair on the legs is unacceptable.
Skin: skin should be a healthy pink, soft, thick and free of dark pigmentation.
Wool: a desirable feature of Romney is the wool can range 30 to 40 micron (44’s to 58’s) depending on individual strains of Romney. Each has its environmental place, its markets, and each should be grown to suit specific manufacturing needs and requirements. The fleece should be bright and white, dense with free opening well defined staples that are full and oval shaped, not flat. In addition to being white, semi lustrous and soft, it should have the necessary bulk and handle that is expected of wool of comparable micron. Uniformity of coverage is essential, and quality should be maintained from the shoulder to the back of the flank. A weak or open back is not typical of the breed and is not acceptable.
Dual purpose, wool and prime lamb sire: pure or crossed-bred lambs are of excellent carcass quality and mature early.
The wool is a demi-lustre of excellent quality and staple, highly suitable for the manufacture of cloths, blankets, knitting yarns and felts.
Number of registered flocks in Australia
Number of registered ewes joined in 2014
Australian Romney Association Inc.
Secretary: Peter McDonald, 199 Cooramook School Road, Grassmere Vic 3281
Phone: 03 5565 4360; Mobile: 0458 622 436