The Southdown Sheep is recognised as one of the oldest Downs Breeds to have originated in the United Kingdom. Their ancestors are believed to have been grazing the short sweet herbage of the Downs when William of Normandy set foot on English soil at Pevensy.
The records show that Rev. Samuel Marsden imported Southdowns to Australia soon after his arrival in 1793. Since then Southdowns have been used widely throughout Australia to cross with all breeds of sheep and produce prime quality lambs that command attention in local and international markets.
In 1974 the ban on importing sheep from New Zealand was lifted and a number of top Southdown rams and ewes were imported into Australia. This resulted in significant increases in muscle and weight in the breed. Today top 15 month old Southdown rams weigh 100-125kg and mature Southdown rams weigh 155-165kg.
An outstanding feature of the modern Southdown is that they carry the correct amount of fat covering. This feature is carried through to the commercial lamb that they sire for today's meat trade.
The purebred Southdown has a reputation for
easy lambing – good over ewe lambs
fast growth rates and early maturing lambs
outstanding carcase and eating quality.
Southdown Breed Standard
Firstly the sheep should have good character and appearance. Head Wide, with no sign of slug or dark poll. Nostrils full and wide. Strong lower jaw. Teeth fitting well up on the pad. Face Full, of medium length from the eyes to nose. Hair of soft texture, even mouse colour with no approaching black or speckled. No wool on face below or around the eye. Eyes Large, prominent and bright. Ears Of medium size and thickness, with soft hair covering of similar colour to face, wool cover is undesirable. Neck Wide at the base, strong and well set into the shoulders, with as few wrinkles as possible. Throat clean. Shoulders Well set, level with the back, well covered, not too heavy and allowing free movement, no depression behind the blades. Chest Ample width and of sufficient depth. Back Long, level and firm with a deep, firm, wide and well muscled loin. Ribs Well sprung with fore and hind flanks fully developed. Tail Broad, almost level with the spine. Hind Quarters (Including thighs) should be full, well let down with a deep wide twist allowing for a deep cut of meat and giving strength to the back leg and freedom of movement. Hind Legs Of medium length but strong with thick bone, having a slightly forward setting from the vertical line of the pin bone. Hocks should be thick and strong. Fore Legs The forearm should be strong and thick with meat. The canon bone should be strong and of medium length. Feet Should be black with the sheep standing square on. The pastern should be well sprung but not sagging. The legs should have no wool cover below knee or hock. Hair cover should match face colour and not have black or brown above the hoof. Scrotum Good size, well hung, carrying two normally well developed testicles. Skin Of a healthy pink not inclined to blue or spotted and should not have wrinkles over the body. Flesh Even and firm handling all over. Wool Short, dense and of fine texture with no brown wool or fibres. Suggested wool count 25 micron or finer. Carriage Free and active, head well carried.
It is extremely important to bear in mind that the main object of breeding Southdowns is to provide the best sire for crossing with other breeds to produce the ideal prime lamb. The sheep desired is one with a maximum of meat with sufficient, but no waste fat and attention paid to keeping the weight on the more valuable cuts. Of great importance also is to present a sheep having clear face and legs which is attractive to the buyer.