The Cheviot sheep are medium to large framed animals with a distinctive white-face and pricked ears, their head and legs are wool free. Rams have a distinctive roman nose that isn’t as pronounced in the ewes. Both rams and ewes are generally polled, meaning they do not grow horns. The ewes are noted for their maternal traits. They are a hardy breed that is suited to upland areas.
Cheviot sheep are a very old breed that originated in the Cheviot Hills on the border between England and Scotland. Originally called ‘Long sheep’ (a name used since at least 1470) or ‘White sheep’ (in contrast to the Scottish Blackface), Cheviots were a mountain breed of extreme hardiness, which would produce meat and wool on cold, wet, hilly country. It was these characteristics that led Sir John Sinclair to select the breed to be taken to the North of Scotland in the late 1700s to replace the original sheep of the area. It was there that Sir John who bestowed on them the name Cheviot. It is noted that in 1838, only a few years after Sir John Sinclair’s death the Cheviot breed was introduced to Ireland to help increase the dwindling sheep stocks on the Island of Ireland. Today the cheviot breed is popular amongst farmers in the Wicklow mountains.
The principal function of the breed is to utilise the hill and mountain grazing to its best advantage, producing store lambs that can be finished on lowland grass or meal fed when housed. Cheviot sheep produce wool that is perfect for making tweed clothing as their wool is incredibly soft.
Like the other hill and upland breeds, the maternal traits of the cheviot ewe is used when crossed with lowland breeds, the result is useful replacement ewe in commercial lowland flocks, these are known as mules.
The cheviot breed is known for its hardiness and is well adapted to graze on upland habitats such as heaths and bogs, they are also found grazing sand dune systems and salt marshes.