Ryeland sheep are amongst the oldest of the established British sheep breeds.
They are well known for producing excellent quality lamb and great tasting meat. Ryeland lamb is much sought after by rare-breed butchers, top chefs, hotels and restaurants. Hand spinners and weavers also seek out Ryeland wool for it texture and quality. Unlike some breeds of sheep Ryelands are docile and easy to look after, which makes them ideal for smallholders or people new to keeping sheep. Ryeland and Coloured Ryelands do well on a diet of good grass, without the need for additional feed. This means they are particularly suitable for organic lamb production.
The breed was developed in the area surrounding Ross-on-Wye and was highly prized for its fleece. The wool clip was of exceptional quality, and this was partly attributed to the succulence of the grazing. The Monks of Herefordshire bred large flocks of ryelands and grazed them upon the Rye fields, giving the Ryeland breed its Name.
Ryeland sheep sometimes produce coloured lambs as the result of the expression of recessive colour genes. These Coloured Ryelands have no gene for whiteness and so, when bred together, alwaysproduce coloured lambs. Fleece colours vary from palest silver through many shades of grey to black. Occasionally fawn or dark brown may occur and the body colour may be uniform or spotted or patched.
Text Courtesy of RFBS