As the name insinuates, English Leicester sheep were developed in England in the 1700's. Robert Blakewell, a pioneer in their breeding, focused on enhancing rapid weight gain while reducing waste at slaughter.
English Leicesters are a dual-purpose, black or white, large-framed, long-wool sheep. They serve a number of purposes as crossing sires to produce prime lamb mothers. They are known for their sound constitution, milking traits and impressive lambing percentages. English Leicesters are also known to produce a meaty carcase with ideal eye muscle percentages.
The fleece of English Leicester measures between 32 and 38 microns and it is dense, even and lustrous, with a well-defined crimp. The wool is ideal for hand spinners and weavers and for lace knitting, garment knitting, crochet, hand woven wall hangings, rugs, commercially spun knitting yarn and other craft work. Mature rams can reach weights of 150 kilograms, while mature ewes can weigh up to 100 kilograms.
English Leicester sheep arrived in Australia in 1826 and have been used to grade up other sheep breeds. The English Leicester Association of Australia Inc, as we know it today, revived itself in 1982, after a period of inactivity. In was incorporated in 1992. The association is responsible for the management and promotion of English Leicester breeding in Australia. In Australia, English Leicester sheep have adapted to most environmental settings, including flat, hilly or marginal country.