Where did Black Cotswolds come from?
Cotswold sheep have been legendary for centuries for not having colored fleeces. As early as the 1500s, poets sang the virtues of this singular trait of the Cotswold breed.
Then--in or near the year 1799--a famous British Cotswold grower named William Garne parted company with his business partner Joseph Large, a show competitor and commercial crossbreeder of Dishley Leicesters with Garne's Cotswolds. At or before that time color had begun to appear in the crossbred bloodlines.
Garne and Large are the only breeders actually named by their contemporaries in connection with extensive crossbreeding using Cotswold and Leicester sheep.
Following the split with Large (and after Garne's own financial obligations had been settled) Garne retained and bred only sheep that traced back to completely pure Cotswolds. This was due to the fact that the crosses did not have as hardy constitutions as the pure Cotswolds.
As writers of that time observed, when this weakness was discovered, "recourse was had to the purebred Cotswold ram" of the hill flocks.
Joseph Large's show flock continued in England for a few more decades. Probably due to its significant Dishley background, it was found to have a much higher incidence of black or colored sheep than any Cotswold flock up to that point. Even so, these crossbred sheep won just recognition in numerous fairs and shows throughout England.
Many of Large's sheep were bought by a new breeder, William Lane, perhaps not aware at that early date that those "Cotswolds" weren't completely purebred.
As he made the transition to all-purebred Cotswolds in the 1850s, Lane sold most of his "Joseph Large sheep" to an American breeder and importer, Colonel J. W. Ware. A number of these--bought by Harvey W. Rice of Kentucky--consistently gave birth to colored lambs, which were sold to a successful Kentucky plantation owner named W. T. Hearne, for use in making identifiable, dark-wool uniforms for his African-American slaves.
Col. Ware, who had been ruined by the war between the states, was offered the last of William Lane's "Large-flock" bloodlines, which he declined, for reasons unknown.
Early ACRA references to these Kentucky flocks show that these color-prone sheep were barred from registry in ACRA at its 1878 founding. Yet the bloodlines persisted in the U.S. to such an extent that at the time of ACRA's founding (after years of locating and verifying U.S. Cotswolds) the crossbred flocks were two to three times more numerous in Kentucky and elsewhere than pure Cotswold bloodlines.
Five 19th-Century importers of Cotswold/Leicester crosses in the states of Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Virginia and West Virginia also added to the Leicester/Cotswold crossbred gene pool, which in turn added to the confusion of non-pedigreed bloodlines.
Further information and documentation on this is available in the book Sheep Success, by Nathan Griffith.
For more information on the Black Cotswold breed of sheep please contact:
Linda Schauwecker, 18 Elm Street, P.O. Box 59, Plympton, MA 02367; Phone: (781) 585-1639 FAX: (781) 585-2026 E-mail: BCSregistry@CotswoldSheep.us.comBlack Cotswold Sources
Last Updated: 05/09/2011