The exact origins of the Wiltshire Horn is unknown, but skeletons of similar, but smaller sheep have been found at Rockbourne Villa, Woodyates & other Iron Age & Roman sites in the Cranborne Chase area.
Sheep have been associated with grazing the Wiltshire Downs for hundreds of years. A former resident of Manor Farm in the 1640’s, John Aubrey (more about him next time!!) wrote of the Downs “The turf is of a short & sweet grasse, good for sheep and delightful to the eye”.
At this time the Wiltshire Horn was the predominant sheep for the area, kept for wool & for providing dung for the traditional Downland ‘sheep-corn system’; in which sheep were ‘folded’ on fodder crops during the winter to provide fertility for the next years arable crops. It was recorded in 1794 that no less than 500,000 Wiltshire Horns were to be found in the county.
By the 1800’s the trend was for bigger sheep that fattened quickly. Through selective breeding the breed became larger, but still remained slow to fatten and became less hardy. They rapidly fell out of favour to the ‘modern’ downland breeds & by 1831 it was reported that ‘These Wiltshires have now quite passed away’.
Thankfully that was not the case and a small number of flocks remained in North Wales and around Northampton. In 1923 The Wiltshire Horn Society was formed and a Pedigree Flock book established. Our Flock of 50 ewes is now one of over 700 flocks in Britain.