Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wooly Words of the Week: Border Leicester and CVM/Romeldale

Since my last fleece contained a mix of different sheep breeds, I wanted to add them to my glossary:

Sheep breed, Border Leicester: This breed comes from northern England, starting with the breeding of Leicester Longwool rams to Cheviot ewes in 1767.  There is likely a little Teeswater genetics thrown into the pot, too.  Their wool is crisp, with a well-defined crimp, and with their longwool heritage, can grow up to 10 inches a year.  This breed is often shorn twice a year, so the wool available for purchase is usually 4-5 inches long.  While white wool is very common, Border Leicesters can produce a range of colors.  There is also a range of fineness with their wool; the finer Border Leicester wools can be used for sturdy garments like sweaters or hats, while the courser BL wools are very good for rugs, bags, and other hard-wearing textiles. 

Wool aside, I love the Border Leicester breed for their striking good looks, with their pronounced Roman noses and upright ears:

Sheep breed, CVM/Romeldale: California Variegated Mutant (CVM) and Romeldale sheep are two sides of the same genetic coin.  Some folks regard them as separate breeds, but I fall in the camp of thinking of them together.  A uniquely American breed, and one of the rarest in this country, this breed began in 1915 when New Zealand Romney rams were bred with American Rambouillet ewes.  Romeldales were bred to remain white, but one of the breeders decided to encourage colors in his flock, leading to the CVM strain of this breed.  The wool from these sheep is fine and elastic, with a brightness and shine from its Romney heritage, making it a favorite among handspinners. 

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