The Southdown breed originated in England. When brought to the US, the breed was "bred up" to make a larger carcass for meat. This almost completely eliminated the original small sheep size.
The original breed standards were then placed on a breed conservancy list as endangered. Today, thanks to dedicated breeders, Babydoll Southdown sheep have the designation of a "recovering" breed.
Babydoll Southdown wool is highly prized by fiber artists and hand spinners for its exceptional quality. Among other uses, it is considered a "sock wool".
From the NABSSAR.org site's breed standard, the following is descriptive of Babydoll wool:
Most old-type Southdowns - by this we mean the off-white Babydoll Southdowns, are evaluated as having wool 1/2 to 3/8 blood.
1/2 blood translates to a 60 to 62-skein spun count and a fiber of 22.5 to 25 microns in diameter, with medium-fine crimp and a 2.5 to 3 inc staple length.
3/8 blood translates to a 58-skein spin count and a fiber of 24.5 to 26.5 microns in diameter, with a medium crimp and 2.5 to 3.5 inch staple length.
Many of the black Babydoll Southdowns are 1/4 c=blood, meaning they have coarser fleece than the off-white Southdowns. They usually have a 27 to 31 micron, medium-coarse crimp and a 2.5 to 4" staple length.
Typically, the off-white wool is more valuable because it can be dyed any color.
Currently, the Southdown Babydoll is well on it's way to becoming a breed often used in 4H and FFA clubs.
Ewes average 90 lbs at maturity and rams average 110 lbs.
According to the breed standard, their height should not exceed 23" at the shoulder.
As Babydoll sheep become more numerous, you can expect to see them continue to gain popularity in shows throughout the US and come to a rightful prominence at county and State Fairs.
They are ideal as show sheep for young children due to their small size and calm nature.
Babydolls are generally a friendly, calm sheep. While there are variations in personality from animal to animal, overall they do not seek excessive attention (unless they were bottle fed), yet often will come to you of
their own free will just to "check things out".
As with Harlequins, Babydolls are easily tamed and can be taught to be lead on a halter within a very short time.
Mature ewes frequently give birth to twins and even triplets.
They are good mothers and usually are able to feed multiple lambs on their own.
Babydolls breed only once a year.