SHEEP FARMING LOCALLY
DORSET HORN AND POLL DORSET SHEEP
Sheep known to archaeologists as the United Kingdom South West Horn were widespread in southern Roman Britain (43AD-400AD). At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) sheep continued to play an important part in the local economy 800 sheep are mentioned for this locality against 9 cattle and 109 pigs. It is thought that the Dorset Horn began many years before that and some experts think that the modern Dorsets carry within their veins the blood of the pre-historic flocks. It is also thought that during Elizabethan times, sheep escaping from wrecks off Portland mated with the Dorset Horn and they received an infusion of Merino-like blood. This accounts for its thick, short wool coat, pinkish face but most importantly the ability of the ewe to come into season throughout the year allowing the farmer to benefit from the most profitable time of the year.
In the 18 th and early 19 th centuries the ewes pregnant from the ram in April would be walked to the sheep fairs in September where buyers from as far away as Edinburgh would buy the in-lamb ewes to satisfy the demands for the Christmas dinner table.
In the early 1800's a Michael Miller from Plush had the last pure flock of the original Dorset Sheep. The Dorset Horn came about by crossing the Somerset Horn with the Dorset Horned Sheep and the first recognised improver of the Dorset Horn was Richard Seymour of Bradpole in the 1830's By 1900 the number of sheep in Dorset had almost halved their peak in the Mid Century.
In 1956 Mr. J. Martin (Bunny) Lenthall of Manor Farm, Burton Bradstock worked his way to Australia with a consignment of sheep and went " jackarooing" round sheep and cattle stations for two years to investigate a report that hornless sheep were being developed and on arriving in Tasmania found a flock strikingly similar to Dorset Horns without horns . Mr. Lenthall brought back a stud ram and a young ram lamb- the first Poll Dorsets in England .
In 1966 Mr. Lenthall made a brave decision to leave the farm which he and his father and grandfather had farmed the 600 acres as tenant farmers and start up again with a 540 acre 'home' farm near the sea at Albany, Western Australia and a further 2,500 acres about 40 miles away. They took with them two of their daughters, Susan and Dorothy and their son Harry. Leaving their married daughter Mrs. Beverley-Hole to carry on the Lenthall tradition in Dorset . They named their farm Bradstock Downs and most important of all they took with them their farm staff Robert Chorley, Roger Harrison, Christopher Murless and Alan Jarman together with their families. Martin's wife "Copper" (she was christened Miriam, but her glowing hair makes the nickname a natural) said at the time that she was looking forward to running a completely labour saving home in Australia after running the Manor farm with its stone flagged floors and other period treasures that were not the easiest to keep clean or the most convenient to live with.
Sheep dipping in Burton Bradstock
Dorset Horn Ram - Melplash Show 2006
Poll Dorset Ram - Melplash Show 2006
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