A versatile breed, Babydoll Southdown sheep are descended from the Southdown, one of the oldest down breeds. Standardized by John Ellman, they have been kept on farms in England since the late 1700s for flavorful meat and fine fleece.
Documented imports to the U.S., of what we now call the Babydoll Southdown, began in the mid-1800s.
Babydoll Southdown sheep make perfect companions for young and old because of their diminutive sizeâ€”ideally 18 to 24 inches at the withers. Also known as the Teddy Bear sheep with a smile, theyâ€™re hard to resist once youâ€™ve seen them.
They possess high intelligence, with a docile temperament, andÂ train easily.
Read more: Meet the Babydoll Southdowns of 1818 Farms.
Their fiber, one of the finest wools of the British breeds, is comfortable next to the skin, touting a micron count typically 23 to 29.
Short-stapled, spinners initially shy away, quickly realizing what they were missing once they take the plunge. Babydoll is resilient and springy, dyes well and has more barbs per inch than other wool. This attribute makes it suitable to blend with slicker fibers.
Needle felters love it.
Read more: For Katie Selvidge, Babydoll Southdown sheep are simply “marvelous.”
Historically a meat breed, these sheep are short, long-bodied and well-muscled. Their heavy body type is not conducive for getting on their hind legs and reaching upwards.
Vineyards have tried other short breeds, realizing lighter built wool breeds are able and likely to stand on their hind legs in order to reach the higher vines and leaves. After some trial and error, used correctly, the Babydoll is clearly the winner in vineyards and orchards!
Babydoll Southdown sheep provide organic fertilizer, eat windfall fruit reducing disease problems, and can eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides.
Their flavorful meat is the Angus of sheep. They produce an excellent carcass with good meat-to-bone ratio and are perfect for self-sustainability. Keepers can easily sell meat to ethnic markets, restaurants and friends and families.
You can milk Babydoll Southdown sheep for dairy products and soap-making. â€”Michelle Schubert, Bergamascosâ€™ Babydoll BrigadeÂ®, secretary of the North American Babydoll Southdown Sheep Association.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.