Hampshire, or Hampshire Down sheep have been around for more than 150 years. This breed is the outcome of a Wiltshire Horn and Berkshire Knot cross with a Southdown. These breeds were native to the region known as the Hampshire Downs. In the early days, Hampshires were prolific throughout the South of England and were pivotal in maintaining high levels of fertility among the flocks in the region. Hampshire sheep are a polled breed, with dark faces free of wool
Hampshire sheep are bred primarily as terminal sires for commercial flocks. They are recognised for their rapid maturing, efficient feed conversion (even in marginal environments), climatic adaptability, easy lambing and quick lively lambs. They produce a lean carcase that is popular for butchers. It is not only fleshy , but it also exhibits one of the best eye muscle scores against other breeds. Hampshire Down meat is known to be succulent, sweet and flavoursome. Hampshire Down cross-bred lambs are capable of achieving a deadweight of 18 kilograms in less than three months.
Ewes typically achieve lambing percentages of 150-180 percent. They perform well on both pastures and uplands and sometimes remain productive until 12 years old. Mature rams achieve average weights of 100-120 kilograms, while mature ewes typically weigh in around 80-100 kilograms.
The wool of Hampshire sheep is short, white, dense and fine-textured, with an average staple length measuring 50-75mm, at 26-30 microns. Rams can yield weights of 6.75 kilograms of fleece, while yearling wools reach fleece yield weights of up to 4.5 kilograms. Their fleece is suitable for fine felts, woollen hosiery, flannels and blending with other wools.
Today, Hampshire sheep are distributed in over 40 different countries. Records indicate that they existed in Australia as early as 1861, where they were exhibited at a Port Phillip Farmers Show. The first flock book was published in 1898.