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North Country Cheviot
The North Country Cheviot Breed

The North Country is an intelligent, tough, resourceful sheep combining thriftiness and healthiness with profligacy and strong maternal qualities.

Quoybrae prize ramThe North Country Cheviot Breeders Association was formed in 1912 for the purpose of holding shows and sales in Caithness and Sutherland. In 1945, this Association was re-constituted into the existing North Country Cheviot Sheep Society to promote the interests of the breed on an international basis.

However the breed has a pedigree going back over two hundred years to 1791 when Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, a relation of the then Sinclairs of Mey and a noted agricultural improver who was keen to halt the deteriorating quality of the sheep stock in Scotland and England, brought 500 'long hill' ewes from the Cheviot Hills near the English border to his estate in Caithness. Thousands followed this initial flock to the northern counties of Scotland. He named these sheep 'Cheviots' after the hill area from whence they came.

The North Country is an intelligent, tough, resourceful sheep combining thriftiness and healthiness with profligacy and strong maternal qualities, with a superior lamb crop producing quality carcasses. The breed is particularly well suited to the grassy hills and uplands and there are now three distinct types: the Caithness type, the Hill type and the Border type - each with its own characteristics. They also produce a fleece that delights hand spinners. Besides the importance of the pure bred flocks a special feature of the breed is that both males and females are ideal for crossing with other breeds and the famous Scotch Half-Bred is the progeny of the Border Leicester sire and the North Country Cheviot dam.

The Longoe Flock

The Longoe flock of North Country Cheviot Sheep was founded in 1960, and to quote Her Majesty from the foreword in the 50th Anniversary edition of the Flock Book -

'as it was considered to be the best breed of sheep. I have seen no reason to change my opinion over the years as it is still the best all round breed with it's ability to thrive on all kinds of ground and in all weather conditions.'

The flock numbers 100 ewes. The lambing percentage is usually in the 160 - 170% range .The lambing commences in mid-March with the ewes housed at night. All the lambs are overwintered on turnips with the cull male hogs being sold fat in March. The best 25 gimmers are kept as female replacements with the remainder being sold in September as seed-stock for pure and Scotch Half-bred producers. The best 25 tup hogs are selected with a view to selling as shearling rams at the Breed sales in Thurso and Dingwall in September.

The most recent "star" of the flock has been the ewe "Longoe S53" by "Field Supreme". She won the Interbreed sheep title at the Caithness Show three times in succession - 1998, 1999 and 2000 - a feat undone before by the same animal!

The flock has been M.L.C. recorded since 1969 when the scheme began, and this has been a great help in identifying the ewe families producing the greatest weight of lambs, with the result that all the ewes now kept are high producers from high producing families. The flock was also a founder member of Caithness Premier Cheviot Breeders - a group of five recorded flocks set up in 1991 and is now a member of Caithness Performance Recorded Cheviots and the Highland and Island Sheep Strategy (HISS).

The objectives of these groups are:

  • To increase the genetic progress in registered N.C.C. sheep.
  • To improve individual flock performance through improved ewe economic performance.
  • To market to the best advantage stud rams and surplus female stock.
  • To stimulate effective promotion of 'superior' stock emanating from the groups for the benefit of other breeders. Semen was taken from the two rams 'Longoe S8 ' and 'Longoe S24' and has been exported to USA and Canada where the resulting progeny have been in great demand.

The Trustees' aim is to not only preserve but also enhance and develop the high quality this breed has achieved.

Summer Show Circuit

The David Oag Dalmore Trophy for the best group of 3 N.C.C. sheep was won for nine years in succession and in 90, 91, 92, 93 and 94 this group went on to win the Interbreed Group of 3 Sheep Trophy.

The summer show circuit, which is the best advertising opportunity for such a remote flock, consists of the Royal Highland Show, the Caithness Show and the Black Isle Show.

The Breed Champion has been won nine times at the Royal Highland Show. The ram 'East Nevey Perfection' was twice champion in 1977 and 1978. A great breeder of females, he was the sire of 'Longoe M845' - the ewe which won in 1984.The ram 'Field Classic' was awarded the champion rosette in 1990 and his daughter, the ewe 'Longoe F29' followed his footsteps in 1992. To complete a hat-trick of wins at the Royal Highland Show in the early nineties, the shearling ewe 'Longoe H3' by the Orkney-bred ram 'Baillieston Norseman' won in 1991 and went on to win the Supreme Interbreed Sheep Champion and the coveted Queen's Cup. 1996 saw the 50th Anniversary Show of the North Country Cheviot Society at the Highland where there was a record 245 entries. The winner of this prestigious show was 'Longoe Majestic' a shearling ram by 'Achscrabster Outlook'. This win enabled the flock to win, outright, the coveted 'Field of Noss Trophy' for five Breed Champions at the Highland. 'Majestic' went on to sell for the second highest price of 2,200gns at the 1997 Thurso sale.

The most recent 'stars' of the flock have been the ewes 'Longoe S53' by 'Field Supreme' and 'Longoe U50' by 'Durran Dominator'. 'S53' won the Interbreed sheep title at the Caithness Show three times in succession - 1998, 1999 and 2000 - a feat undone before by the same animal, and to put the icing on the cake, she was also Breed Champion at the 2000 Royal Highland Show. 'U50' won the 2003 Highland Show and was Female Champion at the Caithness and Black Isle shows.

To summarise, at the Caithness Show the Overall Interbreed Sheep Champion was won in 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 98, 99 and 2000- winning the Polvendale Trophy outright. At the Black Isle Show, the Breed Champion was won for seven years in succession during the nineties with three of these wins going on to win the Overall Interbreed Sheep Champion.

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Tuesday 20 March 2018