Romans invaded Britain bringing with them a large longwool breed of sheep. Over centuries these sheep developed into slightly different types of sheep. They were named mainly from the area in which they had developed, i.e Cotswolds, Lincoln, Leicester & Devon Longwools and presumably the Teeswater. Originally they all would have had a white face.
As the poorer land further up the valleys was grazed by sheep, the Teeswater was used in these dales for crossing purposes. The rams were put to the smaller hill sheep. This produced cross bred sheep suitable for fat lamb production on the more fertile land. Some farmers referred to them as “Mug Tups” because of their facial color.
There are records of Teeswaters being exported to Tasmania in the early 1800’s. Also around this time Robert Bakewell started a breeding program to develop and enhance the quality of the local Leicester Longwool sheep. In the 1840’s some Teeswater females were crossed with a Dishley Leicester Longwool ram called Blue Cap. The offspring were the origins of the Wensleydale breed. Eventually the Wensleydale breed became more popular and the Teeswater declined until by the 1920’s the breed was nearly extinct.
Preface of the UK Teeswater Flockbook Vol. 1 by Thomas Addison
The breed was at one time in some danger of becoming extinct. Fortunately a few farmers in the Tees Valley kept the breed alive and distinct for the purpose of breeding Rams for crossing with hill ewes. During the past 20 years the value of these rams for crossing purposes has become better known and it is now appreciated for breeding half bred lambs that have no equal. I am satisfied that for crossing purposes with Swaledale, Scotch, Black-faced, Dalesbred, Lonks and Herdwicks, they are pre-eminent. This is borne out by the high prices realized half bred-gimmers at Auction Marts in Yorkshire, Durham, Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire. They are a hardy breed and prolific good mothers. Black lambs have been all but eliminated. Total number of members in the first Flock Book – 185.
“Chief of the Bureau of Animal Industry,” Dr. D.E. Salmon. This volume meticulously recorded the “history of the first sheep introduced into the infant colonies, their characteristics, and their improvement,…” through and including the system of “breeding pedigreed flocks and the management pursued of wide and varied experience…”
British artist Samuel Howitt’s depiction of a Tees-water Sheep in 1808.
The Teeswater Sheep
“Upon the rich lowlands bordering the river Tees in the east of England there was originally bred a tall, clumsy sheep, without horns, and with white face and legs. Their bones were small compared with those of other large breeds, but supported a thicker, firmer, and heavier body than its size would indicate; wide upon the back, somewhat round in the barrel, and yielding a heavier carcass than any other sheep, but proportionally longer in growing to perfection; the meat, however, finer grained than could be expected from such an animal. The wool of the old Teeswater was remarkably long, rough, and heavy, yet so loosely was it set upon the skin that the fleece seldom weighed more than 9 lbs. The ewes were very prolific, commonly bearing twins, sometimes three at a birth, and cases are recorded where a single animal brought forth 16 lambs in four years.
These sheep prospered most in small flocks, in pastures with cattle. They were bred to some extent about 1808 to 1815, in Burlington County, New Jersey, and in the vicinity of Philadelphia, and attained a high degree of excellence and popularity, and traces of them lingered for many years afterward, until the New Leicester and the Southdown completely superseded and supplanted them.” (pg 91)
Knowing that the Teeswater fell out of favor two hundred years ago, it is the mission of the ATSA to move the breed forward here in the United States, and not risk losing them yet again to other breeds.
In 1996 Teeswater semen was imported into the US and the first Teeswaters were recorded in 1997. The ATSA was subsequently formed in 2007 and continues to register sheep in the US.
The ATSA is one of two associations in the United States involved with the registration of Teeswater Sheep. The ATSA was founded in 2007, and its registry contains the foundation registrations of Teeswater Sheep bred from 1997 thru 2013, until the formation of the Teeswater Sheep Society of North America. Since the split in the associations, separate records are kept by both associations. While the TSSNA currently recognizes ATSA pedigrees, the ATSA recognizes pedigrees of TSSNA animals with parentage registered with the ATSA. All other TSSNA registered animals can be recorded on a limited basis with the ATSA according to specific registration requirements.
The ATSA maintains separate registries for white, colored and foundation animals according to its by-laws. Information regarding foundation pedigrees and colored production are included with registration certificates or in the yearly flock book publication to assist breeders in pursuing their breeding goals.