A babydoll sheep, or more appropriately called An Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep, is a tiny ball of fluff that brings joy to even the most grumpy of Scrooges.
Well, ok that’s not exactly the definition, but they certainly make me happy every time I look out at the sheep pens and see their adorable smiling faces. And yes, babydoll sheep do smile. It’s part of the breed standard and so is knocked knees. How cute!
Southdown sheep history
Babydoll sheep originated in the South Down Hills area of Sussex County in England. They were known to be very tough, with little sickness, even in bad weather (of which England is infamous for). They were also famous for their meat which was more tender and flavorful than any other breed of sheep.
They became a standard breed in the late 1800s and grew in popularity with over 110,000 registered ewes. The world wars nearly brought the breed to extinction as the rationing and food scarcity created a demand for larger cuts of meat.
Unlike most other breeds which start out full size and then are bred for miniature, this sheep started out small and then was bred to a full size Southdown (or maybe we should call them giant southdowns) in order to meet this demand for larger cuts.
By 1986, Babydoll sheep were extinct in their original country of England. An American named Robert Mock searched the United States for any of the original 1700’s varieties of southdown and for a while people believed they were totally extinct. After a few years, Mock found a grand total of 350 sheep-enough to have a sustainable gene pool to keep the sheep going without need to bring other breeds in.
Uses for Babydoll sheep
Babydoll sheep were originally used for meat and wool. Their meat was considered unmatched in tenderness and their wool “a hand spinner’s delight.”
Babydoll sheep fleece is 19-22 microns, which makes it as soft as cashmere. It also has more barbs per inch than any other wool and this makes it wonderful for blending with other fibers. Spinner’s delight indeed.
Besides wool and meat, these sheep have some other uses that, in my opinion, make it a highly unique sheep.
Let me start by saying…I hate sheep. I really do. Ironically, my mom also hates sheep and said I could get any animal I wanted, but NOT SHEEP. And what did I do? I got sheep.
I actually purchased Babydoll sheep first before I ever purchased any other sheep and since that turned out so well, I then invested in Gulf Coast sheep, which I hated. And then Navajo Churro sheep, which I didn’t hate quite as much, but…yea I still hated. I finally got rid of all our sheep because they were just miserable (to me at least).
If an animal was sick, it was a sheep. If it was injured, it was a sheep. If it had its head stuck in the fence it was a sheep. They were so high maintenance and so unfriendly. Even the bottle fed lambs grew up and didn’t want to be around you.
So there I was with no sheep anymore…except the original two babydoll sheep who calmly went on with their lives causing no problems and greeting me with friendly tranquility every day.
My mom, the infamous sheep hater, one day said. “Let’s get more babydoll sheep.”
None of our babydoll sheep are bottle fed, yet all of them gently ask for attention and want to be with you. They are the sweetest, most loving, and dare I say most intelligent sheep we’ve ever had. If you want a pet, a friend for your great grandma, a companion for your llama. Get a babydoll sheep.
These sheep have participated in ‘weeding trials’ to assess how well they do as organic weeders.
Turns out they’re pretty awesome at it. These miniature southdown sheep are widely used in organic wine vineyards because they’re too short to reach the grapes and leaves and they also don’t eat the trunks of trees. Instead, they eat down the grass and weeds and leave the vineyard well fertilized.
Babydoll sheep need the same care as any other type of sheep breed. They need food, water, minerals appropriate for sheep (they’re sensitive to copper), their hooves trimmed and their wool sheared every spring.
They’re tough and they don’t need to be coddled, especially in the winter. A shelter is all they need. Because they’re small, they don’t need super strong fencing. Because they’re an ancient breed, they generally have great health and are resistant to foot rot. Everything’s cheaper and easier with babydoll sheep.
Babydoll sheep for sale
This sheep breed with their adorable teddy bear faces and knock knees and best friend personalities are on the endangered list both in England and here in America. They’re not terribly difficult to find, but chances are you will have to drive a ways to find a breeder.
We have had this breed of sheep here at the ranch for 15 years and offer a few select lambs for sell in the spring. You can see what’s currently for sale here. I promise you that if you are looking for sheep, the babydoll sheep are a wonderful choice!
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