Origin & History

Developed in the county of Hampshire, England, during the nineteenth century, through the crossing of Southdown rams with ewes of the old Wiltshire Horn and Berkshire Knot breeds. It was fixed as a breed in 1889, and called the Hampshire Down.

The breed arrived in New Zealand in 1861. In 1951-2 two new flocks were imported from England, followed by stock from Australia. Now known as the New Zealand Hampshire, the breed still flourishes in all prime-lamb producing areas throughout New Zealand.

NZ Hampshire logo

Breed Description

Polled. Black/dark-brown face free of wool. Black/dark-brown nostrils. Long, thick, black/dark-brown ears carried almost level and slightly curved. Wool on poll and cheeks. Fleece short, Down type. Black/brown legs, mostly free of wool. Black hooves.


The Hampshire is famed for producing heavy, quality lambs, quickly. It has been shown to convert grass into meat more efficiently than other breeds; and the more efficient the lamb, the greater the return to the farmer.

From Belgium to Brazil, farmers rely on the Hampshire because they know Hampshire Lamb is the market’s choice. They know that the Hampshire produces a heavier, leaner carcass, of a better quality, than any other breed.

It’s a sturdy sheep that requires little care and gives trouble-free lambing. An extended lambing season gives the farmer the option of dual lambing.

Hampshire Ram aged 15 months
Hampshire Ram aged 15 months

Hampshire top quality carcassesThe Hampshire has been adapted by New Zealand stud farmers to meet changes in meat grading. No longer is a heavy shouldered, wool blind sire characteristic of the breed; an open face, fine shoulder animal has been developed. Today’s Hampshire is typically alert and more active without losing red meat. Allied with these changes the breed offers trouble-free lambing and easy-care performance.

Testing in the United States has shown that the Hampshire puts on more weight than the Suffolk – an average of 1.4 kg extra weight each month. That extra weight translates directly into extra profits.

Hampshire top quality carcasses
Hampshire top quality carcasses
From top quality pasture to top quality carcass through the perfect medium – Hampshire

The Hampshire is ideally suited to New Zealand conditions. It’s a sturdy, sound animal that thrives in the New Zealand climate. The ewe readily accepts her lambs, and milks heavily.

New Zealand Hampshire studs have produced an animal for local farmers that has found ready acceptance overseas, particularly in Australia.


The New Zealand Hampshire Breed Society suggests that farmers selecting a terminal sire should look for:

  • Early maturity
  • Minimum of overfats
  • A high survival rate
  • Trouble-free lambing
  • Modern conformation
  • Quality meat
  • A quick return

The terminal sire transmits to its progeny more than 85% of its meat characteristics, good selection is vital. Using the New Zealand Hampshire Breed Society’s criteria, select an active sire with good length and balance. Avoid thick shoulders, short necks, or poor feet. Most importantly, select sires with thick ears, as thin ears indicate a thin skin – threatening the sires progeny survival. Concentrate on good meat filled loins and well-muscled hindquarters.

Ideally, ewes must be high producing ewes with milking ability and a big frame. Not enough emphasis is placed on the quality of our commercial flock, and many regard that any ewe will suit the terminal sire. Avoid ewes that are short, small and light boned if you wish to produce heavy weight prime lambs.


Breeders aim to produce an animal that is described as wedge shape, with fine clean shoulders, and with plenty of length from the last rib through to the tail. This should carry the maximum of meat cover and have a minimum of fat. Muscle in the back legs should be full to the extent of transmitting muscle onto the foreleg.

The Profile

Head: Face and ear a rich brown colour, approaching black, well covered with wool over the poll and forehead. Intelligent, full bright eye. Ears set well on, fairly long and slightly curved. In rams a bold masculine head is essential.

Neck and Shoulders: A strong, muscular neck, not too short, well placed on gradually sloping and closely fitting shoulders.

Carcass: Deep and symmetrical with the ribs well sprung, a broad straight back, flat loins, full dock, wide rump, deep and heavily developed legs of muscle and red meat.

Legs and Feet: Strongly jointed and powerful legs of the same colour as face, set with balance, the hocks and knees not bending towards each other. Feet sound and short in hoof, and not weak in pasterns.

Wool: White of moderate length, close and fine texture extending over the forehead and belly, the scrotum of rams being well covered. Suggested wool diameter: 26-30 microns. The fleece should contain no black fibre.

Skin: Pink or blue, and flexible.

Hampshire Rams aged 15 months
Hampshire Rams aged 15 months

Today’s farmers must choose their livestock carefully. They need a breed that will guarantee the best results from the resources at hand.

That Breed is Hampshire. Hampshire produces a better lamb yield than any other. It offers the advantages of a longer breeding season, trouble-free lambing, a high survival rate and easy care farming.


New Zealand has an opportunity to meet the world’s lamb markets head-on, with Hampshire. Hampshire is the ideal sheep for New Zealand conditions, producing quality meat in quantity, and enhancing further the reputation of New Zealand farmers for efficient productivity.

Hampshire is a proven performer, providing exactly what world markets are demanding. Become part of the positive change to Hampshire, the breed that makes outstanding economic sense for you and your country.

Hampshire Ewe with lambs
Hampshire Ewe with lambs

Breed Classification

Large, alert and active. Tight, well-set shoulders; wide flat loins. Wide, deep, well-developed hindquarters. Rapid growth rate with minimum fat.

A meat breed. Rams are used as terminal sires for crossing with many other breeds.

Bodyweight Wool

Ewes: 80-100 kg (180-220 lb)

Rams: 100-120 kg (220-264 lb)

Fine. Down type. Free of black fibre.

Fibre diameter: 26-30 microns.

Staple length: 50-75 mm (2-3 inches).

Fleece weight: Range 2-3 kg (4.4-6.6 lb); Average 2.5 kg (5.5 lb).

Uses: Woollen hosiery, hand-knitting yarns and flannels.


Excellent producer of prime lamb. Meat lean, sweet, and of good quality.


140-180 percent

Under 3,000 breeding ewes
NZ Hampshire logo

“Fifty Years of Hampshires in New Zealand”

The history of the First 50 years of Hampshires in New Zealand. 
Released at the 2001 NZ Royal A & P Show in Christchurch.

Copies of book may be obtained from:
The NZ Sheepbreeders’ Assn, P O Box 20094, Christchurch
Phone : (03) 358-9412
Email :  admin@nzsheep.co.nz