Use: Like their ancestors, Miniature Cheviots are ostensibly dual-purpose meat and wool sheep but few if any breeders raise them for meat. Instead, they’re promoted as the ideal hobby farm wool and pet sheep. Miniature Cheviots produce soft, dense, low-grease wool with a longer staple length (three to seven inches, in the 25 to 32 micron range) than many of today’s big Cheviots. A bonus: they come in not only white but in an array of colors ranging from true black through pale beige and silver, making colorful Miniature Cheviots fiber a favorite with handspinners. In addition, their hardiness, ease of handling, and sprightly personalities make Miniature Cheviots ideal small-farm pet sheep.
History: The Miniature Cheviot is not a true miniature as it never selected for reduced size. Instead, it’s the old-time Cheviot as the Cheviot breed appeared until it was bred up to modern meat-producing standards. Therefore, the history of the Cheviot breed is that of the Miniature Cheviot sheep as well. The foundation flock of small Cheviots came to America from Canada via a livestock auction in Washington State; beyond that, its origin is uncertain. Early promoters named their little sheep after a similar but unrelated breed, the Brecknock Hill Cheviot of northern Wales. However, when the registry was reorganized in 2006, the name was changed to American Miniature Cheviot sheep.
Conformation: Miniature Cheviots resemble their larger peers in every way except they’re not as tall: their long, deep bodies are set atop sturdy, wide-placed, but comparatively short legs. Miniature Cheviots are naturally polled; they have wool-free legs and faces and many sport a ruff of wool behind their ears. Some breeders prefer Roman-nosed Miniature Cheviots while others opt for a straighter profile; in either case, these are regal-looking, alert and graceful little sheep with wide faces and small, upright ears. White sheep have white faces and legs with black noses, eye-rims, and hooves. Colored sheep have called “fairy kisses”; white leg splashes sometimes occur as well. Maximum height at two years of age is 23 inches measured at the withers after shearing; mature rams weigh 55 to 100 pounds, ewes between 45 and 85 pounds.
Special Considerations/Notes: Miniature Cheviot ewes are attentive mothers, milky, and they lamb with remarkable ease; twins are the norm. Like all of the British Hill breeds, Miniature Cheviots are tremendously easy keepers and very long-lived, many ewes lamb well into their teens.