Oxford Down Sheep

An Oxford Down sheep standing in a field

Oxford Down Sheep and the Chilterns

Oxford Down sheep come from crossing Hampshire and Southdown ewes and Cotswold rams in the 1830s. They were a very popular breed in the Chilterns because they thrived in the sheep folding system. By the early 1900s, Oxford Down rams had found great popularity here and abroad. Farmers had crossed them with other breeds to produce fast growing lambs for market.

Farmers stopped using the sheep folding system in the late 1900s because shoppers wanted to buy smaller cuts of meat. For that reason, the number of Oxford Down sheep became much lower.

The Oxford Down is now a rare breed. Around 1600 breeding ewes in 110 flocks of sheep remain in Britain, including the flock at COAM.

You can see our Oxford Down sheep grazing around the museum and see lambs born in the traditional lambing fold each spring.

Illustration of an Oxford Down ram

Facts about Oxford Down sheep

These hefty sheep are the second largest breed of sheep in Britain. Their average weight is 100kgs, which is about the same as a baby elephant!

You can tell if a sheep is an Oxford Down by looking for these features:
• Long, broad snout
• Tufty forelock
• Thick fleece

Oxford Down sheep produce the heaviest fleece of any of the Down breeds. Weighing between 3.5 – 4.5kg, sheared fleeces weigh almost the same as a cat.


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