Olde English Babydoll Southdown
Sheep Association of Australia Inc.
The Southdown sheep has been present in Australia since the early colonists. There are indications the breed was here in the very late 1700’s, so it is not surprising that in 1805, the Reverend Samuel Marsden wrote to Sir Joseph Banks telling of the presence of Southdowns in New South Wales. The Bryant Brothers who arrived in Tasmania in 1824 had Southdowns with them but the first traceable descendants of today’s Southdowns arrived in Hobart in 1826 as part of the Cressy Company’s shipment. These particular Southdowns came from the well-known and well established flock of John Ellman.
In the time since the early 1800’s the Southdown breed has gone through many transformations to become the Modern Southdown of today. From the very early Southdown of John Ellman’s 1798 flock, showing the speckled face of the original heath breed, which was taller, rangier and fine-boned, through to the longer bodied stockier sheep of the 1850’s, which still had the speckled face but a great deal more muscling.
Then around the 1920’s-30’s the speckled bare face had given way to a wool covered face and even shorter legs and well-muscled body. This type was bred for a few decades before a further transformation took place with bloodlines from New Zealand being added to the mix to produce today’s Modern Southdown……a taller, well-muscled sheep with less wool on the face, being more appropriate for the meat trade for which it was intended.
But we are only interested in one of these types…..the short-statured, well-muscled sheep of the 1920’s - 1960's…..the “Original” Southdown of today.
In 1925, the Metcalfs purchased their first imported ram from Mr Brooks in New Zealand, followed by another ram from Sir Walter Halsey in England. They were both so successful that further imports from New Zealand and England were made, including a record priced Punchbowl ram from New Zealand. Their breeding was very successful and they won many championships, including the coveted Southdown Breeders Cup in 1949. The Southdown had remained a short legged, stocky, little sheep for all these years, but that was soon to change.
When the Southdown breeders decided to change direction and breed the Southdown to today’s Modern Southdown, the Metcalfs continued to breed the sheep that had served them so well, the sheep they termed the “Original Southdown”. Some breeders disagreed with their style of breeding, but the older breed was their market. When the Metcalf brothers passed their flock onto Murray and Judy Peart, they continued with producing this older breed of Southdown and continue to do so today. However, not much has changed with the perception of the majority of Southdown breeders, towards this original Southdown and its look has been lost in the Modern Southdown’s evolution to meet the current meat market.
During the 1960’s similar events were unfolding in the United States of America, with the transition to larger Southdowns that produced more meat, but again one breeder stepped in to help the plight of the smaller Original Southdown. In 1990 Robert Mock decided to find all the original Southdowns he could and after a vigorous and continued search he found enough to form an adequate gene pool. He called these sheep, Olde English Babydoll Southdowns to distinguish them from the larger Modern Southdown and formed a Registry to protect their bloodlines. And so the Babydoll name was given.