Mayo Blackface Ram and Ewe Mountain sheep. Newport Market, County Mayo
The Blackface Mountain sheep are believed to have descended from the wild horned Argali sheep that inhabited central Asia in ancient times. Gradually they spread west through Europe and are thought to have been introduced to mainland Britain by the Danes circa 800AD. It evolved from there probably by interbreeding with other native breeds. In the 17th century the Blackface was known in northern England as the “Linton” or short sheep as opposed to the Cheviot, which was, know as the long sheep. During the 18th century the blackface sheep swept north replacing the Cheviot in the Scottish Highlands as it was better able to survive the harsh conditions and poorer grazing on the bleak mountains. Their numbers increased rapidly during that century as wool became an important product during the Industrial Revolution and the demand for meat increased in line with the growth of cities in Britain.
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