The Ross Farm

PA Century Farm raising Heritage and Rare Breed Livestock and marketing wool products, meats, and livestock.

Leicester Longwools

The breed was developed in the 1700s by Robert Bakewell.   Bakewell was the first to utilize modern animal breeding techniques in the selection of livestock.  Using these practices, he developed the Leicester Longwool from the old Leicester sheep.  His selection techniques changed a coarse boned, slow growing Leicester into an animal that put on weight more rapidly and produced less waste when slaughtered.  George Washington was so interested in Bakewell's ideas that he made reference to him in several letters.  In 1793 Washington wrote, "...and the choice of good rams from the English (Leicester) breed which we now and then get over not withstanding your prohibitory laws or customs."  The Leicester Longwool seemed like the perfect breed of sheep for Colonial Williamsburg, especially with its ties to President Washington.  Williamsburg began searching for the Leicester Longwool, however their search came up empty handed until they purchased "Willoughby".   He was a Leicester Longwool ram obtained from an auction at Woods Edge Wools in New Jersey.  Willoughby sired many crossbred lambs to the Williamsburg Dorsets.   Willoughby met an untimely death when he was brutally killed in 1988. The out-pouring of sorrow and dismay at his death brought in many donations from foundations as well as small gifts from young children for the purchase of more Leicester Longwool sheep.  Williamsburg was able to contact Ivan Heazlewood from Tasmania at a time when he had just started researching the Leicester Longwool's contribution to Australian sheep farming.  He personally took on the considerable task of organizing a flock of sheep for importation to Colonial Williamsburg.  In the beginning the Leicester Longwools were at Williamsburg and in satellite flocks so that we would be able to protect the genetics from another tragedy.  Today the Leicester Longwools are currently numbering just over 700 in the United States.  While their numbers are slowly growing, the members of the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association are striving to maintain the breed's standard as well as looking for ways to improve the breed.  

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