Usually when a breed is developed the industry starts with a large animal and they begin to breed it smaller to obtain a novelty. In the case of the miniature Southdown (Olde English Babydoll) the opposite is true. You see, this miniature breed is not really a miniature breed at all; In fact, they are actually the original Southdown breed from England and are one of the oldest of the English breeds. Unfortunately, through the years sheep breeders have used these blocky, little sheep with the great tasting carcass to establish the taller muscular sheep known to us today as Southdown Sheep.
The breed was originally standardized by John Ellman of Glynd, England around 1780. They are named after the region where they originated which was on the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. Later Jonas Webb began breeding these Southdowns larger and that led to the establishment of the larger Southdown breed that we see today.
It is believed that these little sheep made their way to America around 1800. By 1908 they were very popular in England with over three hundred fifty registered flocks. They were a great tasting, very meaty animal. Unfortunately, by the end of World War II their numbers had dwindled and the sheep industry was looking to breed larger and larger sheep until finally these little ones had practically been breed out of existence in England and almost extinct in America as well.
For some reason Robert Mock held a great interest in these little sheep and in 1986 began to search for any remaining flocks in the United States. After several years he found two flocks and began promoting them. As his efforts were made known to others in the sheep industry, several small flock owners saw them. To their surprise their sheep were these miniature Southdowns and they became involved in the quest to resurrect this dynamic breed. Mr. Mock used the original breed standard that John Ellman had established back in the 1780’s and only accepted adult sheep that were two years old or older into his new registry. They were renamed a miniature breed so as to be distinguished from the taller Southdowns that we know today. When all was said and done Robert Mock had located a little over 600 sheep. The registry was closed and the Foundation Flock was established along with the “Olde English ‘Babydoll’ Miniature Southdown Sheep Registry.” All currently registered sheep in this registry have been breed from the Foundation Flock and has, therefore, preserved this old world breed.
These precious little sheep are now known by many names: Old World Southdowns, Miniature Southdowns, Olde English Babydoll Sheep, Babydolls, and “the sheep that have teddy bear faces.”
In The News
03/09/13 -- 2013 Lambs
01/27/12 -- New Arrivals
05/27/11 -- Olde English Babydoll Sheep Summer At the Landing