The Lincoln: A Luxury Sheep Breed

The British Lincoln Longwool is bred for its lustrous coat, massive size, and delicious hogget.

| March/April 2020


Sheep come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but among them, the British longwool breeds are considered royalty. The Lincoln is the largest of the longwools, and over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several flocks in the U.S. and Canada. I still remember the first time I looked at one of their fleeces, so brilliant it shined like foil in the sun. But fleece alone doesn’t make a sheep, and this old British breed also offers some culinary delights. Good things can come in big packages, and the Lincoln seems to have it all, wrapped up in one versatile sheep breed.

Long-Reigning Longwool


The history of British longwools dates back to the Roman occupation of Great Britain. Longwool sheep were documented on the European continent as early as the second century, and the Romans are thought to have brought them over to Britain, though the sheep persisted for centuries after the Romans left. They were famously depicted in the Luttrell Psalter, an illuminated manuscript commissioned by Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, Lord of the Manor of Irnham in Lincolnshire in the 1300s.

In the 1700s, famous livestock breeder Robert Bakewell became interested in Lincoln Longwools. Bakewell was intent on creating a new and improved Leicester sheep breed, which we know today as the Leicester Longwool. He crossed Lincolns with other native stock to breed productive animals with unbelievably lustrous coats. New Leicester rams were later crossed with old Lincoln ewes to produce an improved breed of Lincoln. More refinements and improvements were made to the breed over time to produce today’s highly productive meat animals with glorious fleeces that made many flock owners in Lincolnshire rich.


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