Greyface Dartmoor Sheep
Unfortunately, The Greyface Dartmoor sheep is on the RBST ‘Rare breeds list. This breed is slow growing, not something todays commercial farmers want.
In the world we live in, a fast growing sheep which you can put in with a Ram in the first year and which matures quickly is king.
This is part of the reason why numbers are so low. We bought two Greyface Dartmoors as pet lambs, Jumbo and Dougal, and fell in love with them. In 2018 we bought our first breeding ewes, which were already in lamb.
Lambing the Greyface Dartmoor Sheep in DevonOur first lambing was February 2019, this bought our first four Greyface Dartmoor lambs. They had two ewes, which we kept, and two boys (wethers) which we found a great home for as pets to two small boys. You can see one of the lambs (Trevor) ‘HERE’, this shows how friendly they can become. In the summer of 2019 we bought 8 more registered pedigree Dartmoor sheep. 2019 will be the first year we have hired a Ram (yes, you can rent-a-ram) for the ewes. We will scan the girls in January to see if they are expecting a lamb or two. This will help with planning as we need to know if any need extra food, we can separate them. It also means we wont be overfeeding any ewes not expecting, this can cause them problems.
UPDATE: The ewes have been scanned and are expecting 6 sets of twins and 6 singles, early March to early April.
You may spot the Greyface sheep here on ‘our webcams’
What are Greyface Dartmoor Sheep ?
The Greyface Dartmoor sheep is a breed originating from Dartmoor, England originally kept for their meat and wool. A large hardy breed with a long woolly full fleece able to cope with the harsh conditions of the moors. Well known for their black noses, placid temperament and being easy to bucket train. Sometimes known as Grey faced, Grey nose, Improved Dartmoor, Dartmoor or just the Darty.
What are the breed characteristics and breed points ?The sheep should have solid, straight legs which are well spaced with thick bones. The body should be level along the back and not dipping in the middle.
The head should be broad with a nicely marked black or grey speckling on the nose. The ears should not be too big. There should be no black in the fleece or on the skin. The fleece should have an even curl all over, not too tight a curl. The only part of the sheep free from wool should be the face.
The breed takes around three years to mature and the aim is for a ewe with around 60kg-70kg body weight.
Why are the GreyFace Dartmoor sheep on the rare breeds list ?
The Darty’s meat is known for its outstanding flavour, but they are a slow growing sheep. In today’s farming world crossing the Greyface with a faster growing sheep is to their advantage. The fleece of a fully grown Greyface Dartmoor sheep can be between 7-9kg. Once used for hard wearing carpet and blankets and other hard wearing woollen products this market dwindled through during the late 20th century.
How many Darty’s are there ?The Dartmoor Greyface are on the ‘At Risk’ register of the RBST. The RBST listing (2019/2020) shows anywhere between 1500-3000 registered pedigree sheep. Numbers have been slowly improving due to the sheeps character with many new breeders keeping them.
Why keep the Dartmoor sheep ?They are so cute, especially the lambs. Our first three sheep were a mix, just three lawnmowers. We had just moved to Devon and had no idea about livestock. Our next purchase was two Greyface Dartmoor wethers, again just as pets. It’s these two boys that gave us the chance to see what a fantastic breed they are. The fact that the breeding numbers were low seemed like a great reason to keep this local breed alive.
Are they an sheep easy to breed ?The greyface are very good at lambing time and have few lambing issues, they usually get on with it themselves. The mums are great at lambing time as they are so calm and easy to handle. The lambs are small and very lively. Lambing percentage for a Darty is usually around 150%.
When do you shear these sheep ?Greyface Dartmoors are usually sheared twice a year, May and September. This sometimes differs if they are being shown. There are many county shows around the country with Greyface Dartmoor sheep being shown. Go and say hello to the owners, they are all really friendly!
What can you use the Greyface Dartmoor wool for ?Originally used for carpets and blankets due to it being hard wearing, this is no longer the case. The Axminster carpet factory recently announced its closure (although may have a reprieve), this was a big market for the wool. Now fleece has very little value but is used for crafts and felted sheepskins.
Where can you find Grey face Dartmoor fleece for sale ?If you are looking for Greyface Dartmoor fleece or wool have a word with a local breeder. There are links at the bottom of the page to help find Dartmoor Greyface Breeders.
Where can you buy or find Greyface Dartmoor sheep for sale?Obviously, if you are anywhere near Devon then you can come and say hello and and see what we have. If you are nowhere near Devon, we have two holiday cottages so you have somewhere to stay when you come and look. 😉
You can just send us a message and ask for advice, always willing to help.
Once again the links at the bottom of the page will help you find a local breeder. Only buy from a registered breeder and registered stock unless you are looking for a pet.
The Greyface Dartmoors do make great pet sheep.