The Breed

History -

The Bleu du Maine originated in the 19th century in western France in the Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne and Sarthe regions. It was developed from crossing of Leicester Longwool and Wensleydale which were imported during a period from 1855 to 1880 with the now extinct Choletais breed. The breed spread throughout France, notably into Brittany, the Centre, South East & the Ardennes from where exports to Germany & Belgium began. The first commercial imports of the Bleu du Maine arrived in the UK in 1982. A large, prolific sheep, the most distinctive characteristic of the breed is its bald, blue grey head which is polled in both sexes. In the UK it is usually used for the creation of cross–bred mules.

Breed characteristics - (general)

The Bleu du Maine is a large grassland sheep with distinctive slate blue grey colouring on its head. It is primarily being promoted as a female producer. Its traits of prolificacy, milkieness, easy lambing and improved conformation make it a highly desirable breed given the present constraints on labour, since these time saving qualities all lead to higher profitability. It is still used as a terminal sire in some areas on downland and hill breeds, passing on these valuable traits.

Head

The Bleu du Maine's head is slate blue grey in colour. It has no horns, a very alert eye (giving a sharp appearance) and a fairly thick skin. It has large nostrils and ears. The  size of the head in comparison to the body is much smaller than that of most native British breeds, enhancing the female characteristics and giving co-related increased fertility and ease of lambing.

Body

The body is well proportioned with good length of neck leading to a strong, wide and long back with well-sprung ribs giving plenty of volume. The fine flat bone structure and hard deep-hooved feet, contribute to an active sheep that requires very little foot care - quite a bonus in flock management.

Fleece

The ewes produce excellent fleeces up to 9kg in weight, of uniform quality and fibre length, very soft to handle and quite free from kemp and grey fibre. The fleece would be expected to attract a premium and is much sought after by hand spinners.