HARSH CONDITIONS: Andrew Bousfield feeding the flock  			      All TM pics
HARSH CONDITIONS: Andrew Bousfield feeding the flock All TM pics

IT’S not easy for a layman to notice in a blizzard, but there’s a striking breed of sheep roaming the hills of an upper dale farm more accustomed to the hooves of Swaledales.

Harwood-in-Teesdale farmer Andrew Bousfield now has a flock of 36 Dalesbred sheep – a breed that has lived in the shadows of Swaledales for years.

“I have always liked the look of them so I decided to get some.

“They are very hardy – you can see their coats insulate them well,” said Mr Bousfield, of Greenhills Farm.

He started with Dalesbreds, which are known for their longevity and good mothering instincts, two years ago.

He also has 250 pure Swaledale ewes and a handful of crossed ewes which go to a Texel tup.

He hopes to double the number of Dalesbred sheep on the farm.

The hefted fell ewes have to be Swaledale as part of the tenancy agreement but the sheep that don’t go to fell can be any breed, so it is these Swaledales that will be reduced over time.

On a ferocious day of driving snow with gusts of more than 50mph (Great Dun Fell recorded speeds of 86mph that afternoon), Mr Bousfield agreed that if they could survive those conditions, they could cope with pretty much anything.

He added: “All sheep in upper Teesdale are hardy – they have to be but I find the Dalesbred, with its better conformation and good ‘jacket and waistcoat’ fleece more suitable to the conditions up here – but that's just my opinion.”

Dalesbred sheep are

indigenous to the upper reaches of the Yorkshire Dales, but also stretch into

southern Lakeland and other areas.

The Dalesbred Sheep Breeders Association point out that they are also suited lowland farms.

As well as being able to tough it out in the worst of a Harwood winter, they are also capable of producing quality meat.

There are only about 130 registered breed members but that number is rising, say enthusiasts.

Mr Bousfield isn’t the only farmer in upper Teesdale to have Dalesbred sheep – Colin Bell in Forest has a few – but he’s the only one in Harwood with them.

He admits his flock have raised a few eyebrows among some farming friends in Teesdale, where Swaledales have been the choice for generations.

“I’ve had a bit of stick about them,” joked Mr Bousfield.

But he did pick up a prize at the Langdon Beck Show in a horned section last September for one of his Dalesbreds. “I was pleased with that,” he said.

He added: “Some deem them old fashioned but I like the traditional elements of the breed.

“I guess most breeds have had the wool bred off them as wool isn’t the valuable commodity it once was.”