The modern Cheviot breed has been produced by selection rather than by crossing. It is a pure breed, one of a very few in this country. Because of this purity, when the Cheviot ram is mated with crossbred ewes of other breeds, he stamps an unmistakable Cheviotness on his offspring, importing to them a large measure of the superiority of which Cheviots are known.
The modern American Cheviot is primarily a mutton sheep. As sheep weights go, it is definitely one of the smaller breeds but one of the most distinctive in appearance. Much of its distinctive appearance is due to the high carriage of the head and the quick, coordinated stride. The head is carried high, and the ears are carried together, erect and forward. There is no wool on the head or face in front of the ears, nor is there wool below the knees and the hocks. The head, legs, and ears are covered with very fine white hair. Their bare heads, attractive white color and absence of horns give them a very aristocratic bearing. Nostrils and hooves should be black in color. Rams in good condition mature at 160 to 200 lbs., ewes from 130 to 170 lbs.
The breed is also recommended for its extreme hardiness. This is one of the breed’s strongest characteristics. For generations raised on the Cheviot Hills, rarely seeing the inside of a shed or barn, summer or winter, Cheviots have, from force of circumstances, developed into the hardiest of the medium-wool breeds. The newborn lambs are strong, vigorous and alert and are born with a will to live. Their unusual vitality and hardiness makes them easy to raise, and with reasonable care, losses are insignificant.
Cheviot ewes are a delight for the shepherd. They bear their lambs easily, have a high number of twins, and produce plenty of milk to support them. Production records, year after year, show that their twins grow as fast as single lambs. Both the lambs and their mothers are good foragers and thrifty efficient feeders. Their grazing pattern is unlike that of other sheep. Instead of grouping together in a frontal assault on a single area, they tend to spread out over an area and get all the available feed. As rustlers, they have few equals. If there is vegetation to be found—above or beneath the snows—browse, grass, heather, or weed—they will find it.
The modern Cheviot has a compact body with a straight smooth back with covers a rack of well-filled, meaty chops and a broad loin of superior quality. The leg is full, round and plump. One of the outstanding merits of these choice cuts, the Cheviot has a reputation as a meat producer. These plump, meaty cuts, their pink flesh delicately trimmed with just enough fat to make them juicy and tender, are the housewife’s choice because with them she can serve her family a tasty meal with minimum waste. Because they are housewife’s choice, Cheviots are the choice of the butcher, and therefore bring a better price at the market. The Cheviot is prized by the meat packers for the very practical reason that the packer gets more pounds of lamb which he buys “on the hoof.”
Cheviot rams are excellent sires in crossbred market lamb production programs. Ewes built to deliver larger-headed lambs find the Cheviot-sired lambs, with their small heads, very easy to deliver, so that much less attention is required at lambing time. These lambs are so vigorous, strong, and hardy at birth that losses are kept at a minimum, and a higher percentage of the lambs are raised to marketing age. Successful producers of commercial lambs know their success depends upon their ability to produce the kind of lamb carcasses which the market demands, at the lowest labor and feed cost. Cheviot ram aid these commercial producers in producing the type of lambs desired by the market.
Cheviots produce generous fleeces of white wool which is preferred by mills because its fineness, crimp, and length of staple give it superior spinning and combing qualities, and its low grease content causes less shrinkage in scouring. The fleece is usually grades 1/4 to 3/8 blood combing and is usually from four to five inches in length. Rams will normally shear 9 to 13 lbs., and the ewe will produce fleeces of 8 to 10 lbs.
All Things Considered
Though Cheviots may come in smaller packages, they contain for the sheepman a surprising combination of highly desirable qualities. They are noted for hardiness, longevity, productiveness, milking, and mothering ability and for their great activity. They are high in quality and hang a presentable carcass that has a minimum of outside fat for the amount of carcass lean produced. They utilize rough, low producing hill country very profitably with relatively little assistance from man and even less from the elements. Where there is a really tough clean-up job to be done to convert waste land into dollars, more and more sheepmen are discovering that “Cheviots can take it.”
In comparing Cheviots with other breeds, let the comparison be made on a basis of pounds of dressed lamb and clean wool produced per acre, and consider all of the costs of this production, including the year-round cost of feeding the ewe, and the time and attention required at lambing and shearing time.