Rare Breed Week: Teeswater

Rare Breed Week: Teeswater
Lara Pollard-Jones
Lara Pollard-Jones

Join us as we speak to the breeders and crafters who are helping to keep our rare breeds going!  We're looking at Teeswaters today with words and images from the Teeswater Sheep Breeders Association.


Stylish and upstanding, the Teeswater is an impressive long wool sheep originating from County Durham. Recent years has seen the breed regain popularity both in its own right and for its excellent crossing abilities to sire the masham half bred. Teeswaters possess an individuality over other sheep breeds.

Distinguished by quite unique features such as their panda eyes and dark noses, the Teeswaters' characteristic trademark top knot and ringlets hang down over the face which adds to their striking appearance. The sheep are hornless and produce a meat which is very lean. Fully grown mature rams can weigh up to 150kg with ewes which are prolific and very maternal to 110kg. They are big, tall sheep.

The wool attracts one of the highest prices in the British Wool grade values and many new breeders have been attracted by Teeswaters because of their wonderful fleeces. A hogg in full wool is a sight to behold. The effect of their wool down to the ground swaying effortlessly when they walk is quite mesmerising. It’s hardly surprising they catch the judges eye at agricultural shows and frequently win ‘wool on the hoof’ classes. They are certainly full of character.

Teeswaters produce uniform fine stapled lustre fleeces that have a natural permanent curl. The wool is in great demand by hand spinners all over the world and is used for worsted suiting, knitting wools as well as blending with other fibres. A first clip fleece can weigh up to 8kg with a staple length of up to 30cm. The wool is 40 - 60 microns, supple to touch, silky soft and will retain its curl and lustre following washing. That lustre remains after spinning and can be seen as a pearly sheen in the finished product.

The Teeswater Sheep Breeders’ Association was established in 1949 and maintains the pedigree status of the national flock, upholds the breed standards and helps to secure the future of the breed which is classified as ‘at risk’ on the Rare Breed Survival Trust watch list. The Association holds an annual show and sale at Leyburn Auction Mart on the first Thursday in October which attracts interest from far and wide.

2024 marks the 75th anniversary of the Association. To commemorate this, the champion Teeswater sheep from various agricultural shows over the country will receive a special rosette and compete with Teeswater champions from other shows at The Masham Sheep Fair in September for an overall champion of champions. That is going to be one very special sheep.

If you want to find out more about the Wensleydale breed you can check out the Teeswater Sheep Breeders Association or RBST.

From the sheep themselves to crafting with their fibre, we've been lucky enough to speak to two crafters; Clare and Liz who use Teeswater in their creations.



I’m Clare Brennan from Cardyke Soay Sheep. I’m a one person crafter and shepherdess based in the fenlands. I spin, crochet and weave lots of items using heritage rare breed fleece, that is either from my own flock or sourced locally. I run workshops, retreats and speak/demo across the country at W.I. Groups to festivals. 

I’ve been crafting now for 19 years. I started with sheep’s wool when I joined a reenactment group many years ago and perfected my drop spindle spinning. It’s the only way I like to spin and keeps in period with the Soay fleece that I spin. I was looking for a fleece/ lock to use for my capelets that I make and wanted something with multi characteristics… the Teeswater lock is just that! I like that their locks are smooth and silky but some are also totally crimped in look and texture… that adds dynamic to a capelet for me. Their fleece takes dye beautifully and whilst using them, I’m also promoting one of our English rare breeds!

Promoting home grown British wool should be main aim for use crafters, especially with our own flocks. 

You can find Clare on Facebook.

I'm Liz and my business name is Straight from the fleece, I live in the Yorkshire Dales and buy fleece direct from farmers in the area. I use the fleece for various craft- spinning, peg looming, needle felting, depending on the characteristics of the fleece.

I have been crafting since I was a young child, taught to knit by my Nana when I was about 4. I finally bought my first spinning wheel in 2014 so I could spin wool to knit with.

I use Teeswater as I have always liked the sheep, as a child our neighbouring farm kept Dalesbred ewes which were crossed with Teeswater to produce Masham lambs. I think their fleeces are fantastic to work with. When spun the yarn is so silky. Also the curls dye really well. A friend of mine who runs a family farm still breeds Masham lambs, I buy my fleeces directly from her.

You can find Liz on Facebook.

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