Herdwick Sheep - the lakes native sheep

The Lake District is home to a variety of wildlife that can be found among woodland and along tranquil lakes. Roaming on the Lakeland fells are the distinctive Herdwick Sheep, a native breed to Cumbria.

It is unclear when the sheep were introduced to the takes but is thought they were introduced to the area during the Viking invasions of western England. There are currently around 60,000 breeding females with 40,000 of these estimated on National Trust Farms.

Their distinctive silver coat, often died red for shows, stand out amongst other breeds of sheep found in England. Herdwick sheep are born black, lightening to a dark brown colour after the first year, then to grey after their first shearing. Their wool is difficult to dye but is an excellent insulator that retains heat in the winter months. A dual purpose breed, the sheep produce both meat and wool. Vital to the maintenance of The Lake District landscape they enjoy grazing on a wide range of plants which keeps the scenery in check. Having a territorial nature enables the sheep to be carried and lifted to a particular fell. This traditional method of farming means the sheep can roam without the need of hedges or fences, as they are taught to stay in the same area. Their ability to survive long periods searching for food and provisions makes them suited to the harsh conditions of the Lakeland fells.

The sheep were bred by Beatrix Potter at the time where the sheep were a threatened native breed. Beatrix won many prizes for her sheep at local shows and became the first elected female president of the ‘Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association’ in 1949.

Beatrix Potter and her Herdwick sheep

Herdwick sheep can be found on farms throughout the fells with large numbers visible in Buttermere, Coniston, Wasdale and Borrowdale.

Herdiwck Sheep