Sheep have been on Dartmoor since prehistoric times and by the late 13th century the region was a specific wool producing area. Around 1190, Buckfast Abbey received a charter from Richard 1 which gave them permission to pasture their sheep and cattle on the moor throughout the year. By the 14th century the Cistercian Abbey at Buckfast was listed in a document as suppliers to the Florentine wool traders.
There are two native breeds of sheep bearing the name Dartmoor - the White Face and the Greyface. Both are descendants of the native heath sheep.
The Greyfaces are sometimes referred to as the 'Improved Dartmoor' because in the 19th century they were crossbred with the Leicester longwools. The actual sheep is of medium size, weighing around 60kg.
They are hornless, deep bodied and
short legged with densely woolled
hind legs and head.
They are hornless, deep bodied and short legged with densely woolled hind legs and head. As mothers the Greyface ewes are considered docile and good rearers with excellent milk yields, regularly raising twins successfully.
This breed was known for its ability to survive and reproduce in adverse weather conditions and is an excellent breed to utilise hill, moor and mountain grazing.
Greyface are known for being placid and easy to bucket train, and anecdotal evidence suggests a good level of resistance to footrot; and with their little black noses the lambs are just… cute!
Greyface Dartmoor ewes
Greyface Dartmoor relaxing in the Autumn sun