One cannot help but fall in love at first sight with the rare breed known as the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep. They are gentle, self-sufficient, and truly beautiful. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep is a small, hardy animal. Black Welsh Mountain Sheep are valued for their decorative capacities, as well as for their meat and wool. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep has recently become one of the favorite producers of wool for home spinners and weavers. The wool from one sheep usually weighs between 2.5 and 4 pounds, and it is always black or reddish-black. Black Welsh Mountain Sheep fleece is medium to coarse, rather than fine, and it is generally short (when compared to Merino wool, for instance.) When well processed and spun it can provide a lovely sweater yarn or bulky for coats, etc.
Besides being excellent wool producers, the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep can be the source of excellent meat. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep is very good at dealing with pests such as flies. They are sound animals and rarely have leg or hoof problems. The ewes are naturally protective of their children and rarely give birth in front of humans. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep is a very hardy animal, in spite of its small size. They are quite docile: even the rams are rarely aggressive, and the ewes are almost completely non-aggressive. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep can feed primarily on natural vegetation that grows in their pasture. They can survive both very cold and very hot temperatures.
The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep is today very highly prized for its aesthetic worth, perhaps more often used for decoration than for either wool or meat. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep is the only sheep native to the British Isles that is entirely black. They are small sheep – ewes are listed at an average of 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and rams between 132-143 pounds (60-65 kilograms). Some purebreds can grow larger averaging 150 pound or so. On the flip side, very small rams and ewes generally result from long term inbreeding, a practice best avoided. Black Welsh mountain sheep have a long, undocked tail.
The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep’s head is small and shaped like a wedge. Their heads and legs are without wool. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep has a straight, level back and rounded shoulders. The hooves, nose, horns, eye rims and skin of the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep are blue-black, matching its fleece. The wool of the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep is entirely black and it is the only black sheep whose wool does not fade with age. The only coloration changes occur in the sun, when the tips lighten to a reddish-brown shade, called “Cochddu”. The wool is very thick and short.
The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep is a hill and mountain type sheep that was once found only in the mountains of Wales. The breed dates back at least as far as the Middle Ages, when the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep was one of the main sources of meat for the people of the British Isles. In the 19th century, mountain sheep were selectively bred for the black color, resulting in today’s Black Welsh Mountain Sheep. Very few Black Welsh Mountain Sheep live outside the British Isles. The first known importation of Black Welsh Mountain Sheep into the United States occurred in 1972, when a flock of thirteen ewes and three rams was imported to a plantation in Maryland.
One ram died in quarantine with no progeny and several ewe lines were also lost. The American Black Welsh Mountain Sheep Association is in the process of doing a full genetic analysis of all living sheep and will be reporting our results in the 2001 Flock Book. The original importer, Mr. Tom Wyman, is the president of that association. His flock consists of approximately 200 animals. There are about 500 animals alive in North America at this time with the remainder in the hands of the 45 active breeders of these lovely sheep. There are also flocks in Canada.
Because Black Welsh Mountain are smaller than other breeds it is important to make sure they are not overfed. In addition they can escape from smaller areas than other sheep so it is important that their enclosures be fenced. As a breed, they are highly resistant to diseases, particularly foot rot and flystrike. The Black Welsh Mountain Sheep breed between February and March. They are very good breeders and rarely have any problem with childbirth. They rarely give birth to more than one lamb at a time. The mothers are very protective and usually hide to give birth.