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Sheep farming has a rich and interesting history and is a large part of the UK’s culture. When people think of the UK, many think of ‘this green and pleasant land’ – and the backbone, of course, is sheep.

There are more than 60 different pure breeds of sheep found in the UK, and up to as many 90 when you consider all the crossbreeds and composites. Breeds all have their own characteristics and suitability for our variety of landscapes, often originating from a very specific part of the country. These sheep and the people who look after them have shaped the landscapes we are familiar with and created the communities that keep rural areas alive.

Farming is an amazing ‘multiplier’ – it creates jobs for vets, feed merchants, machinery providers and more, ensuring there are people living all year round in rural areas and generating demand for local services like schools, bus routes, shops (maybe the local pub too!) The church, parish council, local village hall committee, Young Farmers Club, local hunt – all this infrastructure is dependent on farmers at the heart of rural communities.

Whilst it can be a hard job, sheep farming is also incredibly rewarding, from seeing the young lambs jumping in the spring or working in the beautifully cared-for countryside every day. This can all be enjoyed by the public too, but it must be remembered that farms and the countryside are workplaces and there are steps that you can take to help keep it safe for everyone.

Please find out more below about the history of the industry, the different UK sheep breeds, what farmers get up to during the year, and how you can enjoy the countryside safely and sensibly.