The Herdwick is a breed of domestic sheep native to the Lake District of Cumbria in North West England. The name “Herdwick” is derived from the Old Norse herdvyck, meaning sheep pasture.
Herdwicks are prized for their robust health, their ability to live solely on forage, and their tendency to be territorial and not to stray over the difficult upland terrain of the Lake District. It is considered that up to 99% of all Herdwick sheep are commercially farmed in the central and western Lake District.
The wool quality of a Herdwick has unique qualities relating to durability. Thick bristle type fibres will often protrude from garments forming a protective barrier layer in blizzards—most likely the same qualities that protect the sheep in similar conditions. They have been known to survive under a blanket of snow for three days while eating their own wool.
The old Norse word of herdvyck, is recorded in documents dating back to the 12th century. The origin of the breed itself is unknown, but the most common theory is that the sheep were introduced by early Norse settlers during viking invasions of the 10th and 11th centuries.
Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.Salvador Dali
- Herdwick lambs are born with black fleeces
- A full Herdwick fleece weighs around 3 kg
- Herdwick sheep are one of the UK’s most hardy
- Celebrated author Beatrix Potter saved the breed from extinction
- Today, there is an estimated 60,000 female Herdwicks