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Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science

Breeds of Livestock - Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep

Breeds of Livestock - Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep

Balwen Welsh Mountain

    balwen2.jpgThe British Isles have many breeds of sheep, some recently introduced and some having existed for centuries. The Welsh Mountain sheep can be termed as an umbrella description to describe many breeds indigenous to Wales. Through breeding and selection over the centuries the Welsh Mountain sheep has developed into many distinct breeds, The Balwen Welsh Mountain being one of those. Therefore, whilst not similar in appearance to the speckle or South Wales Welsh Mountain, they are similar in many other ways such as hardiness, ease of management and good mothering ability. The Balwen Welsh Mountain sheep is distinct in having the head socks and tail factor.

    The Balwen has a base color of black/brown or dark gray, with a white blaze on the face, four white feet and a half white tail.  The name Balwen is derived from the Welsh phrase Bal meaning white blaze.

    It is thought farmers over the years used the Balwen as landmarks on the hills as a means of recognizing ones flock. By whatever means, the Balwen has been preserved by the continued belief of committed enthusiasts that the Welsh Mountain is a 'sheep for all seasons'.

    balwen1.jpgFor many years the Balwen was confined to an area of central Wales on the borders of the old counties of Cardigan, Brecon and Carmarthen. The catchment area of the river Tywi, north of Rhandirmwyn (now the Llyn Brianne Dam) was the breeding grounds for the Balwen sheep, and the ancestry of all Balwens can be traced back to the Tywi valley.

    Acknowledged for many years of the need to form a breed society to preserve and promote Balwens and on the 21st of February 1985 at the Glanbran Arms, Cynghordy the Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep Society was formed.

    The Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep is a small, very hardy breed. They are easy to manage having very few health problems associated with many of the larger breeds. They have excellent feet requiring little attention and can get by with only the minimum of feeding at peak times of the year. The Balwen is an excellent mother, having very few lambing problems with plenty of milk capable of rearing twin lambs under the right circumstances.

    Body weight: Ram approx. 38-43 kg
    Prolificacy: 95-130%
    Fleece: Weight 1.25-2.0 kg
    Staple 5-7 cm
    Bradford Count: 40-50microns

    Breed Associations:


    Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep Society: Mr Chris Lewis, Ty Deri, Llanvetherine, Abergavenny,
    Wales, NP7 8PY


    Christopher Impey, The Oaks Farm,Shirenewton, monmouthshire, South Wales, UK NP16 6RL email:


    Kelvin Yue, UK

    Frank Armstrong

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updated January 12, 2001


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