THE North Country Cheviot is experiencing a surge in popularity outside its Scottish heartland as awareness of the breed’s versatility and easy lambing continue to grow.

Figures from the North Country Cheviot Sheep Society show a 70 percent increase in ram sales in northern England and the borders between 2011 and 2020, up from an average 383 to 647.

At the same time, average prices at society ram sales in the region – Lockerbie, Longtown and Clitheroe – show a 53 per cent increase, from £500.75 to £768.50 – a pleasant and steady increase underlying its attraction as an affordable terminal sire.

With the growth in popularity mirrored in other regions of the UK – from Shetland down to Cornwall – the North Country Cheviot is on its way to becoming one of Britain’s most popular native hill breeds.

Yorkshire farmer Paul Brown is a recent convert, introducing North Country Cheviot Hill type tups to his 700-strong flock of Swaledale, Texels and North Country Mule ewes in 2019.

Last year he sold his first crop of lambs for store but retained 60 per cent of the gimmer lambs as replacements.

Paul, who farms around 1,500 acres of heather moorland near Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales, decided to introduce the North Country Cheviot to produce a hardy sheep able to run on hard ground. He said: “We needed ewes on the hill raising lambs that when they come in at the back end are touching 40kg. It was as simple as that. We can sell that; it was a commercial decision.

“The Hill North Country Cheviot brings that hardiness to the cross. They do very well on hard ground, which is exactly what we wanted. Another advantage is they lamb well. They’re up quickly and do well in bad weather meaning they need little assistance. That’s a real plus on high ground like the Yorkshire Dales.”