Once common all over Dorset, the Portland is one of the rarest breeds in Britain and is still at risk. It nearly became extinct in the 1970s but now has recovered through the efforts of dedicated breeders and the help of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. It is now listed as “at risk” being a minority breed.
The Portland is a small downland sheep, originating on the Dorset coast. With a lovely, neat appearance – short horns on the ewes, larger spiraling horns on the rams and a tan to light sandy face and legs. It has contributed genetics to the larger Dorset breeds. The dense down wool is typically short and crimpy and has a creamy, off-white colour.
The Portland has a useful trait in that it can breed at any time of year, whereas most sheep will breed only over the winter to produce their lambs in the spring or summer. Lambs are born with a foxy-red coat which changes in the first few months to a creamy white.