RBST Watchlist Category 4: At Risk (900-1500)
The Portland is well suited to life on a smallholding and can be bucket trained. The breed is small so easy to handle but can be difficult to catch. They can lamb all year round and generally produce one lamb with few problems. Lambs are small, lively and a red foxy colour turning to creamy white. Portlands are usually taken to hogget and mutton age as the lambs lack size. The meat has excellent flavour – George III was a fan of the mutton.
The Portland is similar to the old tan-faced sheep that was found throughout the south west of England before the Roman invasion. Originally, they were bred on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, and were isolated from the rest of the UK during a period of sheep breed development. But by the early 20th century the breed was under pressure from more commercial breeds and in 1920 the last Portland sheep left the island.
In the 1970s, the Portland breed had almost become extinct so in 1977 it was reintroduced to the Island of Portland. Due the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s breeding programme, fifteen years later the breed showed signs of recovery and by 1996 it was no longer threatened.