Deeply Rooted Farms

Scottish Blackface Sheep

The Scottish Blackface is the most common breed of domestic sheep in the United Kingdom. This tough and adaptable breed is often found in the more exposed locations, such as the Scottish Highlands or roaming on the moors of Dartmoor. It is also known as Blackfaced Highland, Kerry, Linton, Scottish Mountain, Scottish Highland, Scotch Blackface and Scotch Horn.

Blackfaces are horned in both sexes, and as their name suggests, they usually have a black face (but sometimes with white markings), and black legs. This breed is primarily raised for meat.

Today the Blackface is the most numerous breed in the British Isles. Roughly thirty percent of all sheep in the UK are Scottish Blackface. The Blackface epitomizes the mountain sheep. They have long coarse wool that shields them from moisture and biting winds. They are able to survive the harshest winters in the most extreme parts of Great Britain.

Several types of Scottish Blackface have developed over the years, but the most common are the Perth variety, which is large framed, with a longer coat, and mainly found in north-east Scotland, Devon, Cornwall and Northern Ireland, and the medium-framed Lanark type, with shorter wool, commonly found in Scotland and Ireland.

The introduction of Black Faced Highland sheep to America first occurred in June, 1861, Hugh Brodie imported one ram and two ewes for Brodie & Campbell, New York Mills, New York. In 1867 this flock and increase was purchased by T. L. Harison of Morley, St. Lawrence County, New York. Isaac Stickney of New York also imported a small flock about 1867 for his farm in Illinois.

Blackface ewes are excellent mothers and will often attempt to defend their lambs against predators. They are good milkers and are able to yield a lamb crop and a wool clip even when on marginal pastures. The breed spread from the border areas during the 19th century to the highlands and the Scottish islands. They also crossed to Northern Ireland and the US. There are flocks scattered across the USA but this robust little breed has remained a minor breed in North America. Blackface lambs yield a carcass ideal for the modern consumer. The meat is free of superfluous fat and waste and is known the world over for its distinct flavor. Although they are not large sheep they have enormous potential for the production of high quality lean lamb for today's health conscious consumer.

Artisans have long treasured the horns of the Blackface for the carving of shepherd's crooks and walking sticks. In the US the fleeces are becoming of interest to fiber artists and hand spinners for use in tapestry and the making of rugs and saddle blankets. (View source)