Southdown Sheep Society’s 125th Anniversary
In the ever-changing farming landscape of the South Downs there is one thing that has remained constant across more than two centuries; the presence of the unique Southdown sheep. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Southdown Sheep Society.
Southdown sheep have long been favoured for their ability to produce high quality, marbled sweet meat from often some of the poorest grassland. Once the favoured breed of Kings, Dukes and Earls the breed can now be found across the UK and much further afield in countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Historically they have also been exported to Russia, France, America and a number of South American countries.
Today the breed can still be found in nearly every country it has set foot in, with further recent exports seeing it reach Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland, to name but a few. However, while the breed was once the leading lamb producing breed in the UK it fell out of favour in the latter part of the last century as other breeds fought to take its market share. This resulted in a significant reduction in numbers, with the breed’s future held in relatively few hands.
It has been thanks to the perseverance of these few individuals, and importantly the Southdown Sheep Society that the Southdown breed is back in as healthy a position as it used to be. Never has the importance of the Society been more prominent than this year when it celebrates its 125th anniversary, a feat a handful of UK breed Societies have yet to achieve.
As with many things in farming, the Southdown breed has had to adapt to survive and the re-importation of Southdown genetics from Australia, France and New Zealand over the last 20 years or so has helped breeders develop their sheep to suit the needs of modern sheep farmers. That said the breed also has a loyal following among the smallholder community with the quality of the meat, its general docility and ability to be managed relatively easily making it a firm favourite with smaller flock masters too.
Today with more than 350 members, the Southdown Sheep Society enters its 125th anniversary year in a strong position and with a positive outlook to the future. Its strong history underpins its success and has enabled current breeders to develop firm foundations to move with the times. To mark this special anniversary the Society are holding a celebration at the Goodwood Estate, Chichester, this weekend (6–7 August), with a National Show featuring the very best of the breed from across the UK. Visit the website for more information.
For a safe and fun visit to the South Downs with your dog please remember to keep them on a lead around livestock and wildlife. Always bag and bin your dog poo-any bin will do! Watch our Take the Lead film.