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Hampshire Sheep

Nicole Cosgrove

March 1, 2021

Sheep are versatile animals, a good source of income, a boost to agricultural diversification, and better still, and they can be hobby animals. There are various types of sheep breeds, and farmers need to choose the livestock that guarantees the best results.

The Hampshire sheep breed is among the largest sheep species and the most beloved among small-scale sheep owners. Unfortunately, most shepherds plunge into owning these sheep based on visual appraisal.

But you cannot tell much about a Hampshire sheep’s future just by looking at it. Having detailed information about its characteristics and management should be your best approach.

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Quick Facts About Hampshire Sheep Breed

Species Name: Ovis Aries
Family: Bovidae
Care Level: Minimal attention
Temperature: Prefers cooler temps
Temperament: Docile
Color Form: White wool, dark face, ears, and legs
Lifespan: 6-11 years
Size: Male weight: 275 lbs.; female: 200 lbs.
Diet: Dry hay, grass, leaves, clovers, plenty of clean water
Habitat: Large fields, 15-20 square feet per ram in a barn

Hampshire Sheep Overview

The Hampshire sheep is one of the Downs breeds that acquired its name from Hampshire County, England, where it developed. It is also known as the Hampshire Down sheep and developed around 1829 through the crossing of local horned sheep ewes like the old Hampshire, Berkshire Knot, Wilshire Horn with the Southdown rams.

Hampshire Down sheep
Image Credit: Jamain, Wikimedia Commons

The first farmer to breed the sheep was John Twynam, who crossed his Hampshire flock with an improved Cotswold ram. Another farmer, Mr. William Humphrey, also made an invaluable contribution by introducing the two of the largest and most outstanding Southdown rams. The districts’ farmers then continued to crossbreed to maximize the flocks and improve the Hampshire Down on Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Berkshire’s less viable soils.

The first Hampshire breed came to America in 1840, although no records show any of the sheep survived the Civil War. There were no further importations until 1879 before the American Down Sheep Breeder’s Association recognized it later in 1889.

Since then, American breeders have selected the Hampshire sheep breeds to fit the world market’s demands. These species are proven performers and adapt to different America’s geographical regions.

The Hampshire sheep’s most significant advantage is high-quality meat production, thanks to the fact that they are genetically able to convert forage into muscle and fiber. The Hampshire is also renowned for its market lamb production and selective crossing. Its wool is useful and can be transformed into fabrics and other items.

How Much Do Hampshire Sheep Cost?

This sheep’s price can be relatively high because of its multipurpose uses such that an adult Hampshire’s ranges between $550 to $3,000. What dictates its price is the high-quality meat, valuable wool, its breeding, age, and of course, the weight.

This breed is worth investing in regardless of the price as it guarantees a double or even triple pay-off. The good thing is that the sheep are easier to handle, and their facilities and equipment are usually much less expensive than other livestock.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

The Hampshire Down breed is a hardy animal that adapts to almost all climatic regions. These sheep are big and active, with intimidating looks that make them suitable for exhibitions. However, some shepherds describe them as quiet and with a laid-back disposition.

They are also alert and are sensitive to small things happening around them and can attack anyone around them if angry. The good thing is that its aggressiveness is less harmful and can’t injure that much.

Appearance & Varieties

Hampshire Sheep
Image Credit: Jane Cooper Orkney, Wikimedia Commons

Appearance

The Hampshire sheep are white, large, open-faced, masculine, and with deep blocky compact bodies, making them seem like the sheep world’s oxen. This breed fits most people’s stereotypical ideal sheep thanks to its white-wooled, dark face and a Roman nose under a wool cap. Their ears are slightly extended, thick, covered in coarse dark brown or black hair, drooped, and have no wool covering.

The head is large, and the face is lengthy, dark-colored, and not wooly from the eyes down. What distinguishes this breed from the others is the unbroken wool cap extension from the neck over the forehead.

Its legs are also dark with less or no wool below the knees, smaller bones, shorter legs, and a broad and straight back. Grown Hampshire ewes weigh between 200 pounds or more, while hefty mature rams scale at 275 pounds and beyond. This breed is usually polled, meaning it has no horns.

The Hampshire lambs mature fast and possess large steep bones and lean carcasses in the process. The females have two medium-sized teats with tight udders.

Coat

Hampshire sheep have strong and medium length wool that can be combed and used for knitting yarns, socks, and flannels. However, the wool is of medium grade, less refined, and less pure because the fleeces contain black fibers, making farmers sell them at discounted prices on the market.

Shepherds often blend the wool with the other breeds to improve its texture and durability. But still, you can collect 6-8 pounds of wool from a mature Hampshire.

Color

The Hampshire sheep are mainly white-colored except for the dark ears, face, and legs. The best way to know if your sheep is healthy is by checking if it has pink skin because it is healthy if it has pink skin.

Hampshire_Down_sheep
Image Credit: Jamain, Wikimedia Commons

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How to Take Care of Hampshire Sheep Breed

As a novice shepherd, you might have doubts whether you are taking care of your Hampshire sheep breed the correct way or not. But as much as these sheep can be fulfilling to keep, it would help if you initially did your homework to boost their productivity and durability. Check out how to go about it.

Enclosure

These sheep can thrive in confined systems in smaller lands and may vary from dry lots or small three-sided pens. You can secure a comfortable year-shelter for your Hampshire sheep outdoors as long as it protects them from predators and prevents them from wandering off.

Although barns are not mandatory, they are a good option for your sheep and should provide a 15 to 20 square feet space per mature sheep. You can use a barn with stalls to allow you to separate the sick, pregnant ewes or lambs from the rest of the flock.

But as much as barns are helpful shelters, it would be best to have shaded grounds outside for the animals to graze. A clump of trees or structured overhead shades will allow the sheep to rest after grazing.

Bedding

The sheep’s floor shouldn’t be solely concrete or wooden as it can tear soles and damage the animal’s joints. You can offer your Hampshire sheep slip-resistant straw bedding on regular days and thick bedding of dry hay during colder seasons to keep them warm and support cleanliness.

Ensure that the material you select has good absorbing qualities to prevent dampness, diseases, and parasites from building up. It would be best to avoid sawdust and wood shavings as not very absorbent and ruin your sheep’s thick wool.

Hampshire_Down
Image Credit: Jamain, Wikimedia Commons

Temperature

Ensure that your sheep’s shelter is well-ventilated with enough open doors and windows. You can also use a fan to help maintain the heat in the enclosure.

It will help if you facilitated good air-flow by installing a fan, especially during hot summers or if you live in hot regions. Although the sheep can regulate their body temperature, too much heat can dehydrate and exhaust your livestock.

Lighting

Sheep have good night vision, but still, they require enough light to facilitate movements around the pens. You can use LED technology to improve the lighting standards in the shed at night.

Do Hampshire Sheep Get Along with Other Pets?

Hampshire sheep are very easy to manage, thanks to their docile nature, making other people consider them pets or companion animals. However, keeping a sheep for a pet shouldn’t be impulsive.

The good thing is that sheep have good social instincts that allow them to bond with other Hampshire sheep or other sheep breeds. However, these animals are prey species with a mentality of protecting themselves from the slightest danger.

For this reason, sheep cannot get along with pet dogs or any other predatory animal. Chances are, they’ll always startle and could be too intimidating for the sheep.

Other pets like ravens, owls can also attack vulnerable sheep and lambs and shouldn’t be kept together. But sheep and cats co-exist because they have similar temperaments, although they’ll most probably do their own things rather than play. If your predatory pets such as dogs are around your sheep, it would be best to supervise the interactions even if the dog is usually friendly to your sheep.

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What to Feed your Hampshire Sheep

The good thing is that Hampshire sheep are famous for their efficient feed conversion. They are also easier to feed and maintain a mineral regime.

As grazer animals, the Hampshire sheep graze for up to seven hours in the morning and the afternoon. Just like other sheep, these breeds like pasture and also eat clover and grass. However, a Hampshire’s diet needs to depend on the age, size, weight, stage, and production stage.

A Hampshire Down sheep
Image Credit: Jamain, Wikimedia Commons

For instance, you can provide good-quality hay, pasture, suitable mineral supplements to mature Hampshire sheep because their nutritional levels are relatively low. If you want, offer them small amounts of grain, bread, corn husks, and leaves as side treats.

On the other hand, lambs and nursing sheep may need advanced nutrition because of their immune levels. For this reason, alfalfa hay and grain supplements will make a great option.

One of the biggest challenges that shepherds face is maintaining their animal’s healthy weight levels. Therefore, if you are trying to reduce or prevent obesity, try a strictly forage diet of hay, grass forb, and browse. Hampshire sheep also require free-choice access to plenty of fresh, clean water and loose or coarse salt to prevent bloating.

Keeping Your Animals Healthy

Hampshire sheep have thick wool that is intolerant to high temperatures. It would be best to sheer the wool during hot temperatures to make the conditions more tolerable.

It is equally essential to avoid over-feeding your Hampshire grain or other animal supplements. This practice may lead to bloating or, worse have excess copper that is toxic to sheep.

Also, avoid keeping your flock with other animals other than goats. Sheep easily contract diseases from other animal’s feces. Therefore, it is vital to clean your sheep’s hooves to eliminate foot rot that occurs after it walks on damp or wet grounds.

Hampshire sheep require preventive care like regular vet appointments, de-worming, and cleaning the coat for external parasites. Also, check for the head and neck for lumps and pot bellies, which may mean ectoparasite and worm infestations.

Breeding

Interestingly, Hampshire rams have inflated fertility and excess sexual drive regardless of the year. For this reason, rams can breed several females that are popular for multiple births.

The good thing is that the females conceive on the first mating session and do not need re-mating. The females can transmit their good genes, durability, and ease of lambing to its subsequent generation. You don’t need to supervise or help the ewe during lambing because they are strong and in good shape to facilitate their lambing.

The birth process can take an hour or less. However, it can take longer if it is the ewe’s first time or multiple births. The female’s gestation period is 144-155 days, and a fertile ewe should produce energetic and active lambs in multiples of at least two’s and more per year.

The Hampshire ewes have mothering abilities and usually display a strong desire to protect their lambs. Generally, a Hampshire sheep breed has a 6-11 years life expectancy.

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Are Hampshire Sheep Suitable for You?

You can utilize a Hampshire sheep’s fine meat, wool, manure, and even milk to benefit you and your family financially, not to mention their landscaping services. The sheep are also a worthy investment because they are a relatively cheap investment, with docile dispositions, and do not require much attention nor luxurious facilities.

Most shepherds used to raise their flocks on farms and ranches. However, this is not the case today as you can keep the Hampshire sheep from your small space as long as you have enough room for them to move. The good thing is, these sheep can fetch riches if you as long as you maintain their diet requirements, hygiene, and medical attention.


Featured Image: Bob Cox, Flickr

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.