Olde English Miniature Babydoll Southdown sheep are an ancient breed with sweet, teddy bear faces. Because of their diminutive size, miniature Southdowns make outstanding weeders for use in orchards and vineyards -- they are only 24 inches tall when mature, and so can't easily reach tree branches or trellised grapes. Their small hooves help break the soil surface without compacting it. They move easily up and down hills, and can get into a field or vineyard much earlier than machinery can. And not only do they provide an organic alternative to pesticides and expensive mowing operations, their recycled grass (manure) helps improve soil fertility as well.
Care for miniature Southdown's is similar to that of other sheep, including sheering, vaccinating, foot trimming, and worming, however, as an ancient breed they are resistant to foot root and more resistant to parasites than other breeds. Their wool is short stapled and fine with a 19-22 micron count, which puts it in the class of cashmere.
The Southdown breed of sheep originated in the South Downs of Sussex county, England. They are one of the oldest of the Down breeds. English farms kept these sheep for their dual-purpose--flavorful meat and fine fleece. Early literature suggests that Southdowns were among the animals brought into the English colonies as early as 1640. During this time, Britain strictly forbade the importation of sheep and the formation of America's budding woolen textile industry. In fact, in 1698, the penalty for wool-trading or sheep-trading in the American colonies was having one's right hand cut off! So spinning or weaving was an act of patriotism. Wearing clothing crafted of American woolens was done with pride. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson raised sheep and both chose American-made woolens to wear to their Presidential inaugurations.
In 1780, John Ellman began to standardize the Southdown breed. Later, documented importations of these small, chunky sheep were made into the United States from 1824 to 1829 from John Ellman's English flock. They grew in popularity in both England and America, and by 1908 there were approximately 367 registered flocks, totaling about 111,000 ewes. World War 1 brought a sharp decline in numbers and by the end of World War 11, the demand for larger cuts of meat had almost forced the breed into extinction.
As time went by, refrigeration and storage of meat had became easier. The smaller animal was once valued because a family could consume one in a short period of time without waste, but the convenience of electricity-run freezers changed that. There was also a move away from the self-sustaining family farm to high production facilities concentrating on one product. By the 1960's, producers and consumers desired larger carcasses due to the notion, "Bigger is Better!", and the smaller sheep were crossed with the larger New Zealand Southdown sheep to produce a larger American Southdown. These are the larger, leggier Southdowns of today.
Around 1990, Robert Mock began a search for the miniature sheep after having read articles about them. After a difficult search, he eventually found two small flocks of the original smaller type Southdowns and gathered them up. After finding these, and promoting them as miniature sheep, others were found in various parts of the country, providing a larger gene pool. He labeled them Olde English "Babydoll" Southdowns to differentiate them from the larger modern Southdown. He also formed a sole proprietorship registry to register these sheep to insure that their lines would be kept pure. Only adults two years and older were accepted so they could be judged against the original conformation standards and heights then verified by a veterinarian. The Foundation Flock was then established and the registry closed.
Numbers grew and eventually some Babydoll Southdown Sheep fanciers envisioned a publicly-owned, board-governed Association and Registry. On June 10, 2003, the North American Babydoll Southdown Association and Registry was formed and became certified as a non-profit corporation.
Those of us enjoying these little sheep have much appreciation for the forethought and efforts of others that gave the small Southdown a place in the miniature world of sheep today. Both Robert Mock's registry and the NABSSAR's registry are in place today. Our Babydoll flock is all registered with Robert Mock's registry, and some are also registered with NABSSAR. We typically register the ram and ewe lambs with Mr. Mock's registry (the Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep Registry), but if you have a preference for NABSSAR, please let us know in advance so that can be arranged instead.
We raise a small flock of Southdown sheep that are part of the North American Southdown Babydoll Registry. Although we have one breeding ewe that is white, both breeding rams are black and so far we have produced 99% black lambs or black with white markings. of our sheep are raised on quality grass hay and alfalfa. We do not feed grains. In addition, they have access to free choice minerals, including Thorvin kelp. We do not use chemical wormers. I do my own fecal examinations monthly and use diatamacious earth for worming if necessary. In addition, I treat illnesses by homeopathy or naturapathics. No antibiotics.
We do not dock tails. Tail docking has become a generally accepted practice among sheep breeders although few can tell you why. It is generally done to prevent fly strike which occurs when flies lay eggs in feces attached to the sheep. With proper management of the flock, especially a small flock, this is a non issue. There is a reason sheep have long tails - especially for the ewes - it is protection for sensitive parts of their anatomy.
Whether you want a pet, a lawn mower or to start breeding, Southdown Babydoll sheep are a wonderful breed to own.