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June 03, 2019 3 min read

Welsh Sheep

Travelling around Wales by any means of transport and you will see sheep in most parts of the country. According to recent census figures, there are over 10 million welsh sheep compared to 3 million people, a 3 to 1 ratio (3 sheep for every 1 person in Wales). This average ratio for Wales covers a range from nearly 20 sheep per person on some parts of rural mid, north and west Wales. As a comparison, there are approximately 1 million cows in Wales compared to the 10 million sheep!

In case you’re wondering how this compares to other countries in the UK or the world, Scotland slightly more sheep than the general population (an approximate ratio of 1 to 1) and England has about 1 sheep for every two people, not surprisingly making Wales the country in the UK with the most sheep per person. However, for a world comparison, New Zealand has over 6 sheep for every person in that country.

The total flock of Welsh sheep makes up to nearly 33% of the British total. In recent times sheep farming accounted for 80% of agriculture in Wales.

What is Sheep in Welsh?

There are many jokes about sheep in Wales, not to be repeated here! But many ask the question, what is sheep in Welsh? In Welsh there is a word for a single sheep and a plural for lots of sheep. The word “dafad” is for a single sheep, whereas more than one sheep is “defaid”.  A male sheep, a ram is “hwrdd” and a new-born lamb is “oen”.

Then of course, there is the “black sheep” or “Dafad Ddu” of the flock of sheep. In most breeds of sheep, a white fleece is the dominant colour of sheep fleeces and black sheep are a small percentage of most flocks of sheep – somewhere between 5 and 15% of all sheep.

Welsh Sheep Breeds

The major native breeds of sheep in Wales are as follows:

  • Badger Face Welsh
  • Balwen Welsh Mountain sheep 
  • Beulah Speckled Face 
  • Black Welsh Mountain or Welsh Black
  • Brecknock Hill Cheviott
  • Kerry Hill
  • Llanwenog
  • Lleyn
  • Welsh Mountain

Also, worth a mention is the Welsh Mule sheep breed, a cross between Blue faced Leicester ram crossed with the Welsh Mountain, Beulah or Welsh Hill Speckled-face ewes.

We have wool from Llanwenog, Lleyn, Welsh Mule and of course the iconic Welsh Mountain Black sheep breeds in our hand dyed yarn or blankest and throws. Welsh mountain sheep wool and fleeces are a core part of the FelinFach range of natural wool products.

Welsh Sheepdog Breed

Whenever you think of sheep in the fields and on the mountains of Wales, you also think of the Welsh sheepdog energetically running, chasing or corralling the sheep and other livestock.

The Welsh Sheepdog is a separate breed from the more popular Scottish Border Collie. Welsh Sheepdogs have tremendous agility, stamina and courage and a good 20kgs sheepdog can cope with herding or driving 750kg cattle.

 In in 1997 the Welsh Sheepdog Society was formed with a view to preserving and promoting the ancient Welsh Sheepdog breed. It is the aim of the Society to develop the purity of the strain. (More info on the Society)

Welsh Blankets, Welsh Tapestry Blankets, Hand Dyed Yarn

The weaving of Welsh Blankets and the Welsh woollen manufacturing industry in general was historically one of the most important industries in all parts of Wales. However it was in the Teifi valley in what is now Ceredigion and it's neighbouring counties of north Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire that the wool industry was at its most prolific during the latter parts of the 19th and 20th century. We support those remaining mills in Wales as part of growing the market demand for wool products.

Our Welsh tapestry Collection is named ‘Hiraeth’. We think that nothing says Hiraeth more than an iconic Welsh tapestry blanket. Hiraeth is a Welsh concept and a word that is somewhat difficult to describe in English. It isn't surprising therefore that  there is no single English word that expresses hiraeth. It is a longing for home, 'nostalgia', or, more commonly, 'homesickness'. Many Welsh people claim 'hiraeth' is a word which cannot be translated, meaning more than just "missing something" or "missing home."   

Our hand dyed yarn is 100% natural fibre, its renewable and biodegradeable. Our yarns are either Welsh or UK fleece and sourced from farms or smallholdings local to us in Pembrokeshire or the UK.

Campaign for Wool

Welsh wool and indeed all wool sources are important to our business and are consistent with our guiding principles of Natural, Traditional and Handmade. We have been an official supporter of the worldwide Campaign for Wool for many years and are listed on the Campaign's official supporter's web page. Wool comes a sustainable source and it meets international environmental agendas. The Campaign promotes these attributes both in the UK and around the world.


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