History of the Breed

Lincoln Longwool article from SpinOff magazine

A Brief History of Lincoln Longwool Sheep

Lincoln ewe with lambs

Long-wool sheep appear to have ancestry from white-fleeced sheep imported to England from the European continent during the Roman occupation. Evidence of this body-type of sheep with similar fleece exists as figurines from the continent dating to the second century. The next evidence of long-wool sheep comes from Lincolnshire, appearing as a detailed illustration in the ‘Luttrell Psalter’ written between 1320 and 1340. In approximately 1460, a brass memorial with a curly-fleeced sheep was placed on the Northleach Church, Gloustershire.

The “old” Lincoln was first identified and depicted in the 1700’s. Robert Bakewell (1725-95), a famous livestock breeder, used the “old” Lincoln with other native stock while creating his “new” Leicester sheep by using inbreeding. Later, Lincolnshire sheepmen used “new” Leicester rams on “old” coarse-wool Lincoln ewes to begin development of the “improved” Lincoln using selective crossbreeding.

Lincoln sheep

Many of the ‘longwool’ breeds likely have a similar developmental history involving Lincoln and Leicester foundations. The distinctly hardy “improved” Lincoln evolved during the 1800’s toward the dual-purpose breed we have today. The “improved” Lincoln combined more quality meat with a higher quality of wool than the “old” Lincoln. Although the wool was of a finer diameter, it took dye very well and retained its strength for the combing and worsted spinning processes used at that time. It was this “improved” Lincoln that led to the accumulation of great wealth in Lincolnshire and surrounding counties for many decades.

In the latter 1800’s, the value of using the Lincoln in crossbreeding programs was recognized. Lincoln breeding sheep were exported world wide for upgrading local breeding stock. Breeds eventually developed by using Lincoln parents included Corriedale, Polwarth, Columbia, Bond, Armenian Semi-Course Wool, and Panama. From these breeds, second-generation breeds were subsequently developed in the US, such as Montadale and Targhee.

History of Lincoln Breeders Associations

Lincoln sheep

A society of Lincoln breeders was started in England in 1796 and the present Lincoln Longwool Sheep Breeders’ Association was founded in 1892.

In the United States, the National Lincoln Sheep Breeders’ Association (NLSBA) was started in Michigan in 1891. By 1900 the membership consisted of approximately 150 members of which one-third were Canadian. Registration of colored Lincolns in the U.S. began in 1984.

The registry maintained by the American association is open for offspring of animals recorded in Lincoln breeders’ registries from other countries. For example, animals that have qualified for registration and are recorded in the Canadian Livestock Records can be transferred and recorded in the American registry.

Lincoln Longwool judging guidelines, reflecting desirable characteristics of the breed, were updated in 1993. The registry and generation of registration papers were computerized in 1997 to offer a standard three-generation pedigree (with a five generation option) and to identify the fleece color phenotype as “white” or “colored”.

During odd numbered years, at a central location, the NLSBA holds a biennial meeting, white and colored sheep and wool shows, breeding sheep sale, and election of officers and directors. Officers include president, vice president, secretary-treasurer and director regions including eastern, mid-eastern, mid-western, western and one at-large. In alternating locations through out the U.S. on even-numbered years, the association holds a membership meeting, shows and sale. Youth activities are conducted nationwide.

The above is excerpted from a pamphlet soon to be offered by the NLSBA to help people learn about the excellent qualities of Lincolns.

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