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Badgerface Welsh Mountain - Torwen

Breed History:

The origins of the Torddu /Torwen are as old as sheep farming itself in Wales. The old name for Badgers is Defaid Idloes, which indicates a very early existence, as St Idloes was a 7th Century saint. The Torwen bears many resemblances to other primitive breeds such as the Soay and the Mouflon, and from what we’ve seen recently they are also very similar to the Cameroon breed. It is believed that the Torwen and Torddu were some of the very first sheep in Wales. The Torwen predominately lived in woodland and scrubland habitats hence the colouring developed to aid in blending in with their surroundings, the Torddu on the other hand were kept more on the open hill where camouflage was not an issue. As the years rolled on the cloth trade in the Middle Ages caused flockmasters to select and breed for whiter fleeces, which is where, apparently, the Welsh ewe of today originated. Essentially the badger is a hardy mountain sheep with good mothering instincts and a higher percentage of twin lambs than the conventional mountain breeds. The breed has many uses either kept commercially or as handy lawn mowers.

Commercially, the hardiness of the breed keeps inputs low and they thrive on rough grazing lending themselves to conservational uses, although they are a more selective grazer than the hebridean, and tend to be used more as a maintenance breed to keep on top of the restored sward.

Badgers produce a quality carcass of approx 12- 14kg dead from around 16 – 18 weeks. They can be easily finished off grass however the later lambs tend to need that little extra as the grass quality deteriorates.

Torwen and Torddu also cross well with the commercial sires producing a heavier carcass that finishes earlier. I, personally, have had great success with using a Texel terminal sire, producing average carcass weights of between 35 and 40kg(LW) finished entirely on grass. The meat is of a very high quality, succulent, flavoursome and not as fatty as the commercial breeds which results in a great tasting, healthy product, highly sought after.

Points of Breed:

Please see Welsh badgerfaced sheep society website for a more detailed description of breed type: http://www.badgerfacesheep.co.uk

Head: small - black or dark brown with distinct white “tear drop”. The lower jaw should be white and run as far as possible down the throat. There should be a minimum of a bib.

Ears: Small. The outside should be the same dark colour as the head. Inside should be a light colour as the white area under the jaw. There should be no lighter colour on the outside of the ear.

Body wool: Main colour to be black or dark brown, preference will be given to darker colours. There should be no grey in the fleece. Visible white or grey patches in the wool are not acceptable. The belly wool must be white and this colour should show distinctly around the tail.

Tail: Outside the tail should be as dark as possible. The underside must be white to the tip.

Legs: Predominantly tan with a black stripe. The stripe should be full length.

Horns: If present on Rams, should be spiral and black. There should be no horns or horn buds on ewes.

Wool: Should be soft, firm and close as for Welsh Mountain sheep.

Conformation: Should be as for Welsh Mountain Sheep

Why Badgers?

The first Torwen ewe was bought as a gift for Meinir (She thought they were cute!!) as she had seen them kept by our neighbour Jane Strick at Uwchmynydd. “Hen ddynas” as she became known was already advanced in years, but in the first year, having run with the Strick ram Zac, she bore an ewe lamb. The following year stuck for gift ideas for the wife I bought a couple of ewe lambs and a pair of wellies!! The new flock was registered with the breed society, and given the prefix Anelog, as the sheep were kept on the slopes of Anelog Mountain Uwchmynydd, Aberdaron. Unfortunately ‘ Hen Ddynas‘ died a couple of years ago still with a full set of teeth and still rearing lambs aged 16!!!

In the following years, the flock was increased purchasing from Mrs Strick’s Bardsey flock, and two rams from Jenny Langford, as well as visits to the societies annual show and sale at Builth Wells in September. We now run a total of around 25 registered Torwens together with the commercial flock of pedigree Lleyn, ewes and Texels.

In 2007, we made the decision to show the sheep at Lleyn Agricultural Show in Nefyn, with some success, although, our showing year was curtailed by the foot and mouth outbreak and resulting movement restrictions.

‘Hen ddynas’ and the Langford rams

Email us: robin@hebsnbadgers.co.uk - meinir@hebsnbadgers.co.uk