Cotswolds are beautiful sheep, but they are also big sheep. Their fleeces is gorgeous, and the few Cotswolds I have on my farm have their fleeces spoken for as soon as they are shorn. The ones that I manage to hold back I usually blend with my best Corriedale and other wools, and the resulting product flies off the shelves.
I would have more Cotswolds, but to trim hoofs, shear and generally do maintenance becomes more difficult as the shepherd (me) ages. They are docile sheep, and do not fuss when being attended to, but their sheer size alone is daunting. I am always on the lookout for colored Cotswolds, because I love their sweet natures and wonderful wool so much, but I will never have very many of them on the farm.
The Cotswold is all white or grayish white, sometimes with small black spots on the face or legs. Their hooves, the skin of their nose and inside their ears are dark. Their bold head has a prominent forelock of wool. Cotswold wool is thick, falling in long curly locks from eight to ten inches in length producing a high quality lustre fleece that is becoming very popular with spinners and weavers.
Originally from the Cotswold Hills of Gloucester in England where sheep have existed from the days of the wealthy wool merchants and thriving Medieval wool towns. The first documented description of the sheep was about 400 years ago, and were known as the 'Cotswold Lions' by 1546, a name that is still used today. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries a devastating sheep disease known as Scrapie decimated sheep flocks throughout England, but the Cotswolds were resistant to the disease and survived. Throughout the 19th century Cotswolds became one of the most popular meat producers supplying food to the rapidly increasing population of England. Cotswold rams were in great demand and sold for very high prices to be bred with other breeds in England or to be exported worldwide.
Cotswolds were introduced into the United States in the early 1800s. The first recorded import was in 1832, but it was evident that this was not truly the first as similar sheep were already fairly common. The Cotswolds, as with other long-wooled breeds, had been used in crossbreeding to increase the size and quality of lambs. There are several large flocks of Cotswolds in the western states mainly producing range rams and not all are registered.
The breed began to decline in England at the beginning of the 20th century because of changes in agriculture and in demand for meat and wool. In the 1960s efforts began to conserve the breed. In the U.S. the Cotswold is still on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Priority List, classified a Threatened, i.e. "Fewer than 1,000 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 5,000. Today the ancient breed that has stood the test of time has a renewed appeal and is again beginning to flourish.