Origin & History

The Lincoln longwool is one of the oldest-established long wool breeds, originating more than 5000 years ago in Lincolnshire in East Anglia, England. In fact, the Lincoln was probably the parent of all the longwool breeds in England. The modern Lincoln, which evolved from crossing the original Lincoln with the English Leicester, is known to have been in existence about 1760.

The breed arrived in New Zealand in 1840, although it was 1862 before effective importations were made. The first shipment of consequence came to the South Island where the rams bred were mainly crossed with the Merino.

The breed prospered, peaking in 1900 when 44% of the rams in use in New Zealand were Lincolns. The Lincoln was used extensively in establishing the New Zealand sheep industry, including the development of the Corriedale which was based mainly on crossing Lincoln and English Leicester rams with Merino ewes.

Between 1893 and 1949, more than 75,000 Lincoln sheep – entire flocks in some cases – were exported from Britain to New Zealand, Australia, Continental Europe, Africa, and North, Central and South America.

Lincolns established a worldwide reputation as the heaviest wool-producing breed and the heaviest mutton sheep. Because Lincoln rams were very early maturing, they proved invaluable for grading up flocks by improving their size, constitution, wool and mutton qualities.

Lincoln Ram © Graham Meadows Photography
Lincoln Ram © Graham Meadows Photography

Breed Description

  • Lincolns grow exceptionally heavy, strong lustrous wool
  • Lincolns are renowned for their longevity and ability to continue to clip heavy wool weights as they get older
  • Lincolns have strong, long-lasting teeth
  • Lincolns have excellent feet and high resistance to footrot
  • Lincolns have excellent mothering ability
  • Lincolns leave early maturing lambs
  • Lincolns have a long cannon bone and a heavy, well-muscled carcase
  • An immediate lift of up to 25% in wool weight when crossed with any breed
  • Increased bodyweight in crossbred progeny
  • Increased wool pull on top grade export lambs
  • High genetic heritability for soundness of teeth and feet
  • A lift in income from these benefits
Lincoln Ewe and lamb © Graham Meadows Photography
Lincoln Ewe and lamb © Graham Meadows Photography

Tim and Helen Gow run the Mangapiri Downs stud at Otautau in Southland:

“At the end of 1984, we became interested in the wool weight potential of Lincoln and Lincoln cross sheep. As pure Romney breeders, were were a bit sceptical and needed some pure Lincolns to get a better of idea of characteristics.

In 1985, we bought 10 stud Lincoln two-tooth ewes and a stud Lincoln ram. In 1986, we purchased 11 more registered Lincoln ewes and leased another stud ram.

The Lincoln really does grow a lot more wool than a Romney. In eight months, the purebred Lincoln ewes averaged 4.4 to 5.1 kg fleece (no bellies). We were able to compare wool weights from Romneys and Lincoln cross (Romlinc).

The Romlinc ram hoggets grew an average of 1.02 kg more wool than Romneys in a year and averaged $7.32 more per fleece. Romlinc ewe hoggets grew an average 3.48 kg in 38 weeks, compared with the Romneys’ 3.03 kg”.

Breed Classification

Dual purpose. Mainly used for cross-breeding to give increased wool weights.

Location: The majority of studs are located in Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

Lincoln Ewes © Graham Meadows Photography
Lincoln Ewes © Graham Meadows Photography
Bodyweight Wool

Ewes: 55-70 kg (110-154 lb)

Rams: 73-93 kg (161-205 lb)

Long, coarse, strong and lustrous. A heavy fleece which opens freely with distinctive broad, flat, well-crimped, firm-handling locks.

Fibre diameter: 37-41+ microns.

Staple length: 175-200 mm (7-8 inches).

Fleece weight: Range 7-12 kg (14.5-26.5 lb); Average 8.5 kg (18.5 lb).

Uses: Products requiring high tensile strength, good lustre, and a soft handle. Specialised uses include upholstery yarns, hand-knitted carpet yarns, speciality knitting yarns, wigmaking and roller lapping. May be used as at substitute for or blended with mohair.


Lean carcase with long, meaty leg of mutton


100-130 percent