The breed originates from the hills around the small town of Kerry, on the English/Welsh borders. Once extremely numerous, numbers since declined and the Kerry Hill was until recently included on a list of Rare Breeds. However, this striking sheep is making a comeback, thanks mainly to its attractiveness to small-holders, who greatly admire their striking characteristics.
The breed has developed substantially in its long history and is now a sheep of bold, strong type, with ewes proving themselves as excellent mothers. The wool is a white, dense quality fleece, free from kemp and it is classed with the Down breeds for marketing purposes.
The present day Kerry Hill Sheep should have the following physical characteristics:
- Markings: The sheep should have a black and white face, odd spot on face acceptable. Legs should also be black and white.
- Ears: Black, Black and White or White. Medium length, set high, free from wool.
- Neck: Strong and muscular, well set into the shoulders.
- Throat: Nicely curved and woolled, with no loose skin.
- Teeth: Not overshot or undershot. Incisor teeth must bite on all inner surfaces.
- Horns: Can occur genetically, but not desirable.
- Ribs: Deep and well sprung, with good heart girth.
- Back: Strong, level, firm to handle, wide loin, with plenty of length from hip-bone to tail.
- Hind-Quarters: Wide and deep, well fleshed to hocks.
- Tail: Hock length is the breed standard. Well set on, strong dock, free from dark or blue spots.
- Legs: Front – well set, with strong bone, enough width but straight, clear of wool. Rear – plenty of width, clear of wool – must not be Cow, Sickle or Turkey hocked.
- Feet: front pasterns – No excessive length on joints. Short strong joints can carry weight. Rear pasterns – Not down on pasterns or long joints. Well-trimmed feet – sheep can walk properly.
- Skin: Pink or red, free from black or blue spots or tint.
- Wool: A white dense quality fleece free from kemp. Should be clean, a small amount of black is acceptable but undesirable. If very black or grey the sheep should be rejected.
- Bone: Male – enough bone for the scale of the sheep, but not fine and spindly. Female – not too fine, but not heavy of bone. Neither should be weak behind the shoulder.
- Males – Testicles the same size and wool free. Must be sound underneath
- Females – Udder etc must be sound unless declared othersiwe at shows or sales.
- Carriage: the sheep should meet one boldly, standing square. Sheep must walk freely not lame or stiff. It is easy to check for footrot.