HERDWICKS are sturdy, coarse-woolled
sheep found mainly on the Lake District fells in Cumbria. The true origin
of the breed is not known. It is thought that sheep may have come into
Cumbria from a Spanish Armada ship which was wrecked off the Cumbrian
coast, but this cannot be substantiated. They may well have been
introduced by Norse-Irish settlers in the 10th and 11th Centuries, or they
may be derived from animals introduced by Neolithic or Bronze Age
November, the tups or rams are put to the ewes (female sheep).
Traditionally, tups were hired at the Autumn Tup Fairs, kept for Winter
and returned in May. Today most farmers have their own tups. For show
purposes, tups are dressed with red colouring to make them look good, and
they are also coloured when running with the ewes to show the farmer which
ewes have been served.
The mature sheep are then taken back to the fell for the winter months. In the past, ash and holly trees were pollarded, that is cut off about ten to twelve feet from the ground, every twelve years or so. The sheep ate the leaves and bark to supplement their meagre diet. Today however, hay, baled silage, concentrates and mineral blocks are put out for them. The young sheep or 'HOGGS' (Lambs in their first year) are often wintered in a more sheltered place such as round the farmstead, or away near the coast or on lowland farms which will favour growth and survival. In March the sheep are gathered down to the intakes and pastures for a few weeks before they drop their lambs, which happens from the middle of April to the middle of May. At the end of May the ewes and lambs are returned to the heaf until July when shearing takes place.
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