What are Dutch Texels - a short guide
All Texel sheep, by whatever name and wherever they are in the world, have their origin in the ancient native sheep from the Dutch island with the same name. This little sheep, locally known as 'Pielsteert" on account of its thin, unwooled tail, had one unique characteristic: its meat stayed lean. However, it was small and only produced single lambs. During the early part of the 20th century Dutch breeders started crossing the Texel with several English breeds, mainly Leicester and Lincoln Longwool, which resulted in a large, prolific and very well fleshed sheep but which crucially retained its ancestor's leanness. A breed society was established in 1909 and no further crossings were made. Several decades later Dutch Texels started spreading to many other countries which in turn adapted the breed to their own preferences and needs.
Dutch breeders had long exported lambs to France where their superior lean meat quality was appreciated and this reputation brought them to the attention of UK breeders. Importations from Holland started in the late seventies following on from French Texels which had made their way to the UK earlier in that decade. Once in the country Dutch Texels quickly became the king of Winter Fatstock exhibitions such as the Royal Smithfield Show.
The same sheep is also found in neighbouring Belgium, where, just as in Holland, it's called Texel. During the nineties a group of enthusiasts from the UK started to import Texels from Belgium but called them Beltex, to distinguish them from British Texels. A breed society was set up promoting this type of Texel as a new breed. Belgium's sheep population is quite small (less than 200.000) and Belgian Texel breeders regularly buy their stock rams from Holland where there is far more choice. Belgian breeders produce excellent sheep which are very stylish, with good top lines, but smaller in size than their Dutch relatives.
In Holland, the fashion for small and extreme muscled sheep peaked in the late nineties. The breed society took a lead and introduced new guidelines to encourage breeders to improve size, growth rate and general health of their sheep. The latest guidance is the "breeding goal 2020", published in the early part of 2015. The emphasis is on commercial attributes and indexes are based on growth rate and prolificacy.
Today Dutch Texels are still famous for their exceptional meat to bone ratio and high killing out percentage. Their fleeces are fine but not peeling. They are mobile, prolific and easy going trouble free sheep.
As neither Laparoscopic AI nor Embryo transplant is allowed in the Netherlands the development of Dutch Texels moves at a steady pace The well established system of assessing all sheep used for breeding by awarding points for seven external characteristics, combined with measurements and the indexes are a reliable way to determine the quality of the sheep. There are many regional summer and wintershows in Holland - a good place to see the best sheep and also a place where breeders buy and sell.
Dutch Texel Sales:
Carlisle Sale 2019 - Monday, 9 September
To meet demand in the northern part of the UK a sale of Dutch Texels was set up in 2010. This is held on a Monday in the first week in September. Auctioneers are Harrison and Hetherington.
Tel: 01228 406230
Ruthin Sale 2018 - Friday, 13 September
Until 2010 this was the only specialist sale of Dutch Texels in the UK. Since its inception in 1997 is has become a successful venue. The sale is held on the Friday following the Carlisle sale with Auctioneers Ruthin Farmers Auction Company.
Tel: 01824 702025