Ryeland Sheep

The Ryeland is a dual purpose sheep which produces high quality wool and tasty meat, the Ryeland lends itself to organic farming as it is a sheep that does well on good grass alone, and is also ideal for the smallholder due to its placid temperament and easy to manage characteristics.


The Ryeland is a ancient breed of downland sheep, it is a rare breed that is thought to have originated in the Leominster area of Herefordshire. It is said that the Ryeland is probably the oldest of the recognized British breeds of sheep and  that no other British breed can claim greater historical data. The Ryeland society was founded in 1903 and the first flock book was published in 1909, but various authorities identify the Ryeland back to the 12th century and the breed has a fairly clear history of some 800 years. 

The Ryeland was originally best known for its production of fine wool and its natural habitat ensured a hardy constitution. Today the Ryeland is increasingly valued for its tasty meat, fine wool, gentle nature and relatively easy to look after characteristics make it popular with small holders. Also sought after by commercial breeders for quick maturing lambs and group 1 scrapie resistance genotyping.


All pedigree animals must be white throughout

Head - Medium in length, masculine in rams, head with no trace of horn and face showing character, strength and constitution.

Face - Medium length, dull white in colour,  dark skin around the nose, nostrils not contracted. White hair on dark skin around eye, eye bright and clear of wool.

Ears - Medium length, Carried slightly back, dark colour with either fine white hair or short white wool.

Neck - Strong, broad and set on so as to give the head a bridled appearance.

Shoulders - Smoothly and well set, no depression behind.

Chest - Broad and fairly deep.

Back - Straight, level from base of neck to setting tail, which should be broad.

Ribs - Well sprung, body well down forming good bottom line.

Legs - Full, well let down. Good length of hind quarter from hip bone to dock.

Legs and Feet - Dull white colour, legs below knee and hock all straight. Compact feet firmly set.

Skin - Healthy pink colour except where otherwise stated.

Flesh - Even and firm handling all over.

Carriage - Smart appearance when walking. Head held high.

Fleece - To be good in quality, stronger in rams than in ewes, deep in staple, thickly set on skin, handling firmly, close level appearance, every part including belly and purse well covered, except where otherwise stated. free from coarseness, kemp, black, grey or rusty fibres.