Isolated attempts were made during the 19th century by various breeders to improve the native Wicklow breed. The most suitable breed for crossing was found to be the Scotch Cheviot, which were first introduced by the Barton family of Glendalough and the Kemmis family of Ballinacor.

 

Many of the smaller mountain breeders failed to introduce fresh blood and the haphazard methods of breeding and want of a proper ideal on the part of the owners resulted in the breed becoming mixed and lacking character and uniformity. Although the fine quality of the wool continued to attract the attention of Bradford Spinners, and the superiority of the mutton was well known, many breeders were not reaping the same benefits as would accrue if the breed bore the hall marks of a pure breed namely, individuality, uniformity and definite character.

 

Accordingly in 1926, a number of interested and leading sheep breeders, with the co-operation of the Department of Agriculture and the Wicklow Committee of Agriculture, established the Wicklow Mountain Sheep Breeders Society, with a view to giving encouragement to the breeding improvement, development and maintenance of the native sheep as a pure breed.The best flock owners throughout the county joined the Society. Annual inspection of ewes and rams were held at various centers and those which reached the required standard of excellence were entered in the Flock Book.

 

For some twenty years annual flock inspections were conducted by competent judges who were keen breeders and at present, registered flock owners have attained in large measure, uniformity of type and breed character.

 

The Society now holds annual Sales of Purebred Registered Rams in October in Blessington, Co Wicklow and Stranorlar, Co Donegal in Ireland, where hundreds of Rams are exhibited and sold. 

The Foundation of the Wicklow Mountain Sheep Breeders Society