The Border Leicester breed descends directly from the Dishley Leicesters that evolved in the Border Counties of England and Scotland when Dishley blood made its way into the region. Farmers in the area adopted strict breeding programs, and the new and improved Leicesters became well established on both sides of the border, although two distinctive types were emerging on each side. On one side, breeders favoured the infusion of Teeswater bloodlines, on the other side, breeders preferred Cheviot blood. By the 1850's, the hardier flocks that were emerging became known as the Border Leicester.
Border Leicesters are large-framed, polled, long-wooled sheep. Their dense white wool has desirable staple lengths and will cover the entire body. Mature rams generally reach liveweights between 140-175 kilograms, while mature ewes can reach between 90-120 kilograms. Fleece from a ram can weigh up to 9 kilograms, while the fleece of a ewe can weigh between 4-6 kilograms, with a grade of 29-32 microns. This type of wool is ideal for carpet manufacturing and heavyweight garments.
They are bred predominantly as crossing sires. The Border Leicester and Merino Cross ewe has enjoyed great success and has become extremely popular amongst leading Australian prime lamb producers. Due to its impressive productivity, not only has this particular breed produced some of our country's best quality grass fed lambs, but they have been exported to nearly 100 countries. The merino influence is beneficial for the wool producing traits, while the Border Leicester bloodlines enhance meat production qualities.
Border Leicesters are known for their strong hybrid vigour, climatic adaptability, milkiness, easy lambing, fast growth rates, productivity, and carcase quality. They produce early maturing prime lambs.
Today, Border Leicesters are distributed throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Australia, France, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, North America, India, Japan, China and other parts of Europe. They first arrived in Australia in the 1870's, and now, Border Leicester flocks span the country, aside from the northern tropical areas. Their climatic adaptability sees them perform well in the high rainfall regions as well as drier pastoral areas
The Australian Border Leicester Association maintain and promote the breed within Australia.