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History of the Olde English “Babydoll” Southdown

One of the oldest of the English breeds of sheep is the Southdown, originating on the South Down hills of Sussex County, England.  These small sheep were known for their extreme hardiness and produced a carcass with tenderness and flavor unmatched by any other breed.  In 1780, John Ellman began to standardize the breed.

These small Southdown grew in popularity in England up until 1908 when there were approximately 367 registered flocks totaling about 110,000 ewes.  World War I brought a sharp decline in numbers and by the end of World War II, the demand for larger cuts of meat had almost forced the breed into extinction.

It is believed that the Southdowns reached America in 1803 and their popularity grew and subsequently declined in nearly the same pattern that had occurred in England.  The small Southdown could not compete with consumer demand, which ultimately led to the mass production of the larger, leggier Southdown of today.  Each year brought a further decline in numbers because of the notion “bigger is better”. 

In 1986 Robert Mock began a search for miniature sheep.  He had seen articles about these little sheep in old sheep literature, but finding them proved to be difficult.  However, four years later he found two small flocks.  After finding these two flocks and promoting them as miniature sheep, others were found in various parts of the country, which provided a larger gene pool.  All of these animals were pure and many still had their original Southdown registration papers.  In order to distinguish these small sheep from today’s larger Southdowns, Mr. Mock named them Olde English “Babydoll” Southdowns, and formed the Olde English “Babydoll” Southdown Registry.  The registry website can be found at www.oldeenglishbabydollregistry.com .