Also known as Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep, Babydolls or BBDs are an adorable miniature sheep which when registered, are typically priced between $500-$900.
The sweet and gentle nature of Babydoll sheep is a common trait among them, although some may be more sociable than others and prefer to keep their distance. As with any animal, their personalities tend to develop and become more expressive through interaction with their human caretakers.
The Southdown is one of England's oldest sheep breeds, known for hardiness and tender, flavorful meat. John Ellman standardized the breed in 1780, and by 1908, there were 367 flocks totaling 110,000 ewes.
During World War II, demand for larger meat cuts almost led to extinction. The breed arrived in the US in 1803 and later developed into two lines: the larger modern Southdown and the miniature or original Southdown.
In 1986, Robert Mock located 350 miniature Southdowns with original bloodlines and formed a registry, naming them "Olde English Babydoll Southdowns."
As mothers, Babydoll Southdown sheep are loving and attentive, often having muiltple births. While moms take care of their own, you'll often see one "volunteer" to babysit several lambs allowing their mom to graze and relax. Older, retired ewes will also take this role in the flock.
Kathleen Sterling, proprietor of Black Sheep Farm East in VA, is credited with developing the Harlequin sheep breed as it exists today. Approximately 35 years ago, she utilized a combination of several breeds, such as Karakul, Tunis, Corriedale, Lincoln, Border Leicester, Romney, Montadale, and Southdown rams, to create the Harlequin sheep. After fifteen years of dedicated breeding, Ms. Sterling successfully produced a consistent size and basic conformation similar to that of the Southdown breeds, while also achieving varied color, staple length, and texture in the fleece.
Despite the Harlequin's current status as a distinguished breed, breeders are still striving to enhance its size and overall appearance, in keeping with Ms. Sterling's vision. To to achieve this objective and decrease the breed's size further, the registry is allowing registered Harlequin to registered Babydolls until 2030.
This initiative enables breeders to introduce fresh bloodlines and work towards the target of breeding 500 American Purebred (AP) Harlequin sheep. Once this population goal has been attained, the breed will be considered closed.
Breeding Harlequin sheep can result in a fascinating range of varieties that can make for a unique and colorful flock. Known for their distinctive and striking coat patterns that come in various colors and sizes, one of the most exciting features of breeding Harlequin sheep is the variety of coat patterns that can be produced. Some Harlequins have wild and bold spots all over their bodies, while others have fewer spots that are arranged in a more subtle and subdued manner, and some are a single color.
Despite being a single color. ALL Harlequins can produce spots - or not. You can never predict what lambs will look like!
Some Harlequin sheep are born with partial to full blue eyes, which can be a stunning contrast against their unique coat patterns.
It's believed that most Harlequins have the blue-eye gene, although this has not been scientifically proven. It often happens that blue eyes appear in lambs whose parents themselves don't exhibit this trait. Blue eyed parents, don't guarantee blue eyed lambs - making lambing time even more exciting!
Breeders have recently noted that this breed presents superior resistance to worms in addition to being a hardy breed able to withstand harsh climates and conditions.
With wool much like the "cashmere" quality of Babydolls and their good mothering skills, Harlequin miniature sheep offer alot of value.
Breeding Harlequins, you'll be a part of a very small community dedicated to bringing this all-American breed to the forefront of miniature breeds.