The Breed of Sheep
The Hendra Vean Flock
Cotswold is a large, hornless, longwool breed with a white face, a
well-developed forelock and a high lustre wool. They are one of the
largest British sheep breeds with an average ram weighing 140 kgs (300lb) and a
ewe 85 kgs (190lb); the fleece of a shearling could weigh over 5 kgs (11lb).
As the name implies, they are descended from flocks that grazed the Cotswold Hills and they can be traced back to Roman times. During the Middle Ages these sheep provided the wool, which was a major export commodity, to countries like Flanders. The abbeys of Gloucester and Winchcombe had flocks of 10,000 and 8,000 respectively. The "wool" churches and buildings constructed by wealthy wool merchants in the Cotswolds remain a lasting testimony of the breed's Mediaeval importance.
In the 19th century, the breed achieved a second golden age, but this time as a meat producer and Cotswold sheep were exported all over the world. However, by the 20th century changes in demand for meat and wool contributed to a decline in the breed, so much so that by the 1960s there were only about 200 breeding ewes most of which were owned by the Garne family who had lived in the Cotswolds for generations. Nowadays, the breed has been saved from the brink of extinction by a number of people determined to save this historically important sheep. At present there are about 1,300 breeding ewes.
Although the majority of Cotswold sheep are kept in pedigree flocks, some rams have been used on upland ewes and they have consistently produced strong half-bred ewes capable of producing large lean lambs.