The original Suffolks were the result of crossing Southdown
rams on Norfolk Horned ewes. Apparently the product of this
cross was a great improvement over either one of the parents. Although the Suffolk was a
recognized breed as early as 1810, the flock book was not closed until much later.
In 1930, Southdowns were described as large sheep without
horns, dark faces and legs, fine bones and long small necks. They were low set in front
with high shoulders and light forequarters; however, their sides were good, rather broad
in the loin, and were full in the thigh and twist. Today's Suffolk derives its meatiness
and quality of wool from the old original British Southdown.
The Norfolk Horned sheep, now rare, were a wild and hardy
breed. They were blackfaced, light, fleeced sheep. Both sexes were horned. The upland
regions of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge on the southeastern coast of England are very
rugged and forage is sparse. It was this dry, cold and windy area in which the Norfolk breed adapted itself to traveling great distances for
food, thereby developing a superbly muscular body.
It was said at that time of the Norfolk Horned,
"their limbs are long and muscular, their bodies are long and their general form
betokens activity and strength." This breed and its crosses were valued highly both
by farmers and butchers. However, sheepmen of that day did not like the long legs, flat
sides, nor wild nature of the Norfolk Horned. They noted that
Southdowns crossed with Norfolk produced a progeny that reduced most of the criticisms of
In 1886, the English Suffolk Society was organized to provide registry service and to
further develop the use of the breed. Through selection and careful breeding by many great
English sheepmen, the Suffolks brought to this country retained the qualities for which
they were originally mated.
The first Suffolks were brought into this country in 1888 by Mr. G. B. Streeter of
Chazy, New York. During a visit to England the previous year, Mr. Streeter had been
greatly impressed by Suffolk sheep. These prize breeding animals had belonged to Joseph
Smith of Hasketon, and one 21 month old ewe weighed exactly 200 pounds when she came off
the ship. A 9 month old ram weighed 195 pounds and in the spring of 1890, a 7 week old
twin weighed 85 pounds. That spring Streeter had a 200% lamb crop.
The Suffolk did not make its appearance in the western states until 1919. Three ewes
end two rams had been donated by the English Suffolk Sheep Society to the University of
Idaho. One of the rams was to be sold at auction at the National Ram Sale in Salt Lake
Several leading sheepmen saw these sheep at the sale and they liked what they saw.
After several rounds of bidding, the ram was finally sold to Laidlaw and Brockie
(developers of the Panama breed) of Muldoon, Idaho, for $500. These men were so impressed
with the offspring from their Suffolk ram that they made several importations and were
consistent buyers at the National Ram Sales.
Since that time, the University of Idaho has
played a great part in developing and advancing the Suffolk in the western states.