Breed Study: Polwarth
Polwarth sheep are a 75% Merino / 25% Lincoln cross commonly found in Australia, as well as New Zealand, South America, and the Falkland Islands. In South America, they are commonly referred to as Ideals. They are a dual-purpose breed, raised for both meat and fiber, and come in both polled and horned variety.
Staple Length: 3-6 inches
Bradford Counts: 58 – 62s
Polwarth fleeces are soft, with a long staple, rectangular structure, and well-defined crimp. Polwarth is excellent for dyeing, felting, blending, and handspinning. The fiber is soft enough to be worn next to the skin or for baby garments, and it is very elastic, with good drape. It is also durable enough to be used for items such as socks and outerwear
Polwarth yarn puffs up a bit after washing. You can add more twist for more durability and definition or less twist for extra softness and drape.
The Polwarth breed originated in Australia in around 1880. The breed is named for the County of Polwarth in the State of Victoria, where they were first developed by Richard Dennis and his family at Tarndwarncoort.
The new breed of sheep were initially called Dennis comebacks. Comeback sheep are bred by crossing a sheep that is half Merino and half English longwool (in this case, Lincoln) with a purebred Merino, resulting in a sheep that is ¾ Merino and ¼ longwool.
The new sheep cross was found to be hardier than the pure Merinos, and better suited to the sparse forage and harsher climate of Australia, which made it possible to extend their grazing area. The fleece was also highly prized for its exceptional quality, which, combined with its success as a consistently profitable meat sheep, year-round breeding capability, and high rates of twinning, led to the breed’s increasing popularity in Australia, and its introduction to other similar climates.
Polwarth sheep were introduced in the United States in the 1950’s, but did not achieve the same popularity as they did in the Southern Hemisphere, so are somewhat rare today. Most commercially available Polwarth fiber in the U.S. today is imported.