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Cheviot – Year of the Sheep

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Cheviot sheep originated in the Cheviot Hills on the border of Scotland and England. They produce 1/7th of the total wool production in Scotland. Cheviot wool, known for its durability, is used in socks, sweaters, blankets and wool tweeds for jackets and fine suiting material. These sheep originated in Scotland but are now found in many other countries, including the United States and Canada.

History

Cheviots are an extremely hardy breed, named for the area which they originated the Cheviot Hills. For centuries they were raised in the open without the benefit of a shelter, but their hardiness insured their survival. The Cheviot sheep can be documented as far back as 1372.  From the 14th century through the 17th century the Cheviot Hills were constantly under attack by the Border Reivers (raiders along the English/Scottish border). They burned crops, rustled cattle, sheep and goats. During this time the church owned large parcels of land in the Cheviot Hills. In this protected land the Monks raised Cheviot sheep and made improvements in the wool.  The original Cheviot fleece was short staple length and light fleece weight. Through selective breeding and introducing sheep with longer staple length wool, they were able to produce a marketable fleece and they became a dual purpose animal. The Border Cheviot are the foundation stock for the Brecknock (Welsh) and the North Country Cheviots (Northern Scotland).

Characteristics

These sheep have open white face surrounded by a ruff of dense white wool, white legs and distinctive erect ears. Neither the legs (below knees) nor their face have wool on them. They are hornless. Cheviots are very alert and active animals and are a favorite breed for people who train and raise herding dogs.

Cheviot wool has a distinctive helical crimp. Unlike the more common zigzag type crimp, the helical crimp is a 3 dimensional structure resembling a spiral that gives the wool the resilience and bounce that Cheviot wool is renowned.

Ashland Bay stocks Cheviot Hog. The Cheviot Hog is not listed as a separate breed as it is a combination of wool from the three Cheviot breeds. The wool has a longer growth period of 15-18 months, rather than the usual 10-12 months, resulting in a longer staple length.

Cheviot wool has a long history in the production of resilient and durable yarns and fabrics. The combed top is not as dense as a merino top and drafts very easily, making this the perfect wool for beginner spinners. It dyes easily and takes the color well. It can also be blended with other fibers to give the finished product the Cheviot resilience and durability.

Ashland Bay’s Cheviot Top will be on sale from July 20 – August 3. To download the Cheviot Sheep card, click here.

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