Dorset Down sheep are native to England’s West Country, where they originated in the early 1800s from a cross of Southdown rams with Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire ewes during the golden age of sheep improvement.
They are not related to the white-faced Dorset Horn but are distantly related to Suffolk sheep which are a cross between Southdown and Norfolk sheep.
Dorset Down sheep were exported to North and South America, and to Australia where they are, like in the UK, listed as a rare or minority breed. They were also exported to New Zealand and are now plentiful there.
Arrival in Australia
Walter Turnbull was one of the first to import Dorset Down sheep to Australia. He ordered five ewes from the Torey family in the UK in 1939 but the sheep were not delivered until the end of World War 2, in 1945. They established the second recorded flock in Australia: the first was established in 1937 by L.J. McMaster at “Binnia Downs”, Coolah, NSW but has since been dispersed.
The five ewes imported by Walter Turnbull were quarantined at Coode Island at the convergence of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers in Melbourne, and all produced twins soon after arrival.
Description of a Dorset Down Sheep
Type and appearance : Symmetrical, combining size and scope. Carriage and action in walking, bright and vigorous
Head: Forehead fairly wide, eyes prominent and lively, muzzle moderately fine. Throat clearly defined. Ears of medium length, thin, pointed, of fine texture, brown in colour, as the face, and carried well above the level of the eyes (rams masculine in character).
Neck: Strongly set on broad shoulders and of mdoerate length.
Chest: Wide, full and deep
Legs and Feet: Wide apart in front and hind legs straight and strong, with flat, clean bone, standing well up on the hoof.
Back and Flesh: Level, with no unevenness behind the shoulders and covered with firm, well developed flesh with entire absence of unevennness of cushions. Long loin, level and well covered with meat.
Hind Quarters: Wide, long and filled with flesh showing a good leg of mutton. Flank both deep and full.
Tail: Large and well set on, almost level with chin.
Fleece: Of fine texutre, dense, covering the whole of the body down to the hocks and knees, round the cheeks, betweeen the ears and on the forehead, but should not have wool under the eyes, across the bridge of the nose or on the ears. Skin of a delicate bright pink. Suggested wool clount 58- 56.
Horns or evidence of their presence
Speckled face, ears and legs
Overshot or undershot jaws.
Prime lamb sire
Number of registered flocks
Registered ewes joined in 2023
For further information on the Dorset Downs
Colin and Margaret Chapman
Brad and Katie Harland