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History of the "Babydoll" Sheep & Lambs

Origin and Background

The BABYDOLL Southdown is one of the oldest of the English breeds of sheep is the Southdown, originating on the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. These small sheep were known for their extreme hardiness and produced meat with unmatched tenderness and flavor than any other breed of sheep.


In 1780 John Ellman, realized the potential of these animals and set out to standardize the Southdown breed. In England, these small Southdowns grew in popularity up until 1908 when there were approximately 367 registered flocks totaling about 110,000 ewes. The growth in this breed’s development slowed in the early 1900s as World War I brought a sharp decline in their numbers. By the end of the World War II, the demand for larger cuts of meat had almost forced the breed into extinction.

It is believed that the breed reached the United States in 1803. Their popularity grew and later declined in nearly the same pattern that had occurred in England. The small Southdown could not satisfy the consumer demand for larger meat cuts. This was a significant factor in the development and mass production of the larger, leggier Southdown of today. This divergence from the original breed standards was the beginning of what would later become two distinct lines: The Southdown and the miniature (or original) Southdown. In breeding for these larger characteristics however, many of the original “miniature” attributes were bred out and nearly lost. Each year brought a further decline in the number of these “original” Southdowns.

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Today, known simply as BABYDOLL Southdown, the BABYDOLL sells well in the companion and 4-H markets and is valued in vineyards, sustainable agriculture, and organic farming. Their wool is favored among spinners and fiber artists who enjoy fine wool with remarkable spring. Today’s breeders believe breed preservation is of utmost importance and strive to keep this wonderful breed of sheep from forever being lost.

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