Portlands at a glance
Origin: Dorset, UK
Type: Primitive Down
Weight: 40kg for ewes, 55kg for rams
Purpose: Wool, high quality hogget
The Portland is a heathland breed from the Dorset area, and linked to the Wessex tan-faced group of sheep.
Lambs are born with a foxy red coat which changes in the first few months to creamy white. The wool is close and fine with a short staple, though some red kemp fibres should be found on the britch.
The breed produces exceptionally high quality meat with fine texture and excellent flavour. The Portland can lamb at any time of year, but usually produces a single lamb.
Unlike synthetic fibres, Portland wool is fully renewable, being produce naturally each year and, by using this product, you are supporting the husbandry of this beautiful little animal. Without shearing, sheep can overheat in the summer, collect parasites, become ‘cast’ (that is stuck on their backs with feet in the air, unable to right themselves) a position from which they can die.
Wool production has very little environmental impact unlike its man-made rivals. There aren’t many materials that don’t involve plastic or some other material that is detrimental to the environment. Normally, due to the small numbers of Portlands, you are able to trace a fleece to an individual animal or at least a flock. So, you can wash, spin and knit wool into a finished garment without the use of any plastics, chemicals or energy and know your partner in the production of your beautiful garment.
All those hours of enjoyment in the making, many more in the wearing and even at the end of its useful life your wool garment can be composted.
Sheep’s fleece is ideal for your garments, naturally stain resistant as the fibres are protected by natural oils, making them less pervious to dirt, and for the same reason the colour does not fade. Being a natural product, it is high in water and nitrogen content, so naturally flame retardant, and when fully used it can be recycled and returned to the land where it is biodegradable.
Being breathable it absorbs heat and releases it to keep us cosy in our homes, and for the same reason homes with Portland rugs and throws have improved acoustics as sound is also absorbed.
Portland wool is a sought-after product, creamy white, soft a good staple and very adaptable with dyes.
When shorn, on average, the fleeces weigh around 2 kilos with a staple length of around 6 to 10 cm, and a micron count of around 26 – 30.
The fibre has an irregular crimp, wavy and disorganised.
Portland hogget and mutton brings the ‘best of nature’ to your table. A delicate, leaner meat with the hint of gaminess alluding to the early ancestry of sheep.
Consumers who today are choosing natural and healthy products also want to understand the soul of their food and how it helps look after the environment around them. Portland contributes to that healthy yet balanced lifestyle from a rare, yet by using the product, sustainable food. Utilising this delicious food adds to our quality of life, making it a happier longer experience with the ecosystems which the sheep maintain being kept in balance for all to flourish.
Portlands are one of the oldest UK inhabitants. Little has changed since those early sheep and we believe that what was required in history matches today’s society, high quality meat on a small lean carcass with fine texture and a delicate yet depth of flavour; eating less but eating quality.
Portlands are slow to mature, they grow best on the natural grasses and herbs in the field and so are best served as hogget (12months old) or mutton (24 months plus). This allows the flavours to develop and pick up that slightly gamey flavour Portland meat is well known for; be it in your humble breakfast sausage or your fine dining celebration; the Portland will add value to your meal.
Owing to the Rare standing of the breed you will have full traceability of your product, and by using the meat you are promoting the breed to ensure its future and hopefully removing it from the ‘Rare Breed’s tag to a ‘Native Sheep’
The carcass grades very well and the meat is known in high quality establishments and wins many prizes, indeed it is understood to be a favourite food of George the 3rd.
Here, at Oriontree, we hope to make the most of their wonderful fibre to produce ethical, natural, hand-made products for the discerning gifter.
Rams are assessed more strictly than ewes. A ram with a black mark on hair, skin or wool is not recommended for breeding.
Head & Face:
Profile of face slightly concave in ewes, straighter in rams. The face is a tan colour, but may have lighter areas around the eyes and muzzle. Flesh of the nose is dark. Some sheep carry a light covering of wool on the forehead but the rest of the face is free from wool. Woolly cheeks undesirable. Ears short, tan and clean. Eyes dark.
White makrs undesirable. Black hair or marks undesirable.
Horns are light-coloured. There is often a black line in one or both horns. Those of the ram are heavily spiraled; in ewes they are smaller and curve through a half circle.
Black, upright, flyaway or ingrowing horns undesirable.
Incisor teeth should be short, broad, straight and even and meet on the pad, Adult teeth emerging and condition for age should be taken into consideration. Jaw should be felt for signs of molar irregularities.
Body of a Primitive type within the Down breeds. The withers may appear slightly lower than the rump. Tail long and well set up on the rump. Good width between the legs.
Dip in the back or narrow angular conformation undesirable.
The legs are fine boned with an even tan colour matching the face. Free of wool on the front legs and below the hock. Up on the pasterns.
White marks undesirable. Black hair or marks undesirable.
Hooves uniformly dark, smell and straight.
Size & Weight
Portlands are relatively small – a typical ewe weighs 38-40kg.
The average weight of adult rams is 55kg (at three years old and body condition 3), rarely exceeding 66kg and 65cm at the withers.
Testicles in good condition and of good and equal size.
Two teats and udder in good condition.
Creamy white, close and fine with a short staple, but may be coarser of the britch where some red kemp fibres may be found.
Coarse wool or open fleece undesirable.