Portland sheep at Kingston Lacy

A newborn Portland lamb with its mother in the parkland at Kingston Lacy in Dorset

Our flock of rare-breed Portland sheep were introduced to the estate in 2018. A local breed, these animals are an important part of how we manage the estate today.

History

The pedigree flock of Portland sheep at Kingston Lacy was first introduced to the parkland in 2018 to carry out conservation grazing across the estate and to support a local rare breed.  

Portland sheep are a small, ancient breed, originating on the Isle of Portland in Dorset. Due to competition with more commercial breeds, the last Portland sheep left the island in 1920 and numbers of Portland sheep dropped dangerously low to only 100 animals in 1977. Recent conservation efforts have brought the breed out of imminent danger and have re-introduced the breed to their native grounds on the Isle of Portland. They are still classified as an at-risk rare breed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust with 900-1500 breeding ewes.

How do we use them?

Portland sheep are the perfect breed for conservation grazing as they are hardy, thrifty animals that can thrive on rough vegetation and sparse grazing. They help us to manage habitats such as wood pasture and wildflower rich hay meadows.

By carefully controlling grazing factors such as time of year, duration and number of animals, the sheep help us manage these habitats to support a great variety of plants and wildlife. They are also able to graze areas which are unsuitable for our herd of North Devon cattle. You may spot them in the parkland and in paddocks around the Pamphill area.

These characterful sheep can often be found butting heads in the parkland.
Portland lambs at Kingston Lacy in Dorset
These characterful sheep can often be found butting heads in the parkland.

Lambing at Kingston Lacy

Portland ewes can lamb all year round, but here at Kingston Lacy we lamb in the spring (late February-March) to coincide with the fresh grass growth.

Portland ewes generally only have one lamb and it is unusual for them to have twins. Mothers are very protective of their new-borns and the lambs are quick to their feet.These characteristics are attributed to the fact that the breed developed in a harsh environment with sparse vegetation and adverse weather conditions. Born a gorgeous shade of russet red the lambs have a distinctive appearance.  

The first few days after a lamb is born are crucial for developing the maternal bond between ewe and lamb. They need a quiet, calm environment, so if you see them in the parkland please admire them from a suitable distance and take care of the electric fence.