A SOMERSET show will play host to the Southdown Sheep Society National Show this year. 

The Royal Bath & West Show, which takes place at the Shepton Mallet showground from May 30 until June 1, has played host to many breed societies' national shows. 

The Southdown Sheep Society started its national show in 2012. President of the society, Jonathan Long, has kept a pedigree Southdown flock for the past 70 years. He also has a more recent flock of Blue Texels. 

"We host [the show] in a different place every year, we find this encourages our members to make the journey and take part," he said. 

“We personally try to enter all the classes if we can. At previous national shows, we have won the championship twice and reserve a couple of times, too. We have also won interbreed titles across the country.

“We start getting our sheep ready five months before they are born. If you don’t get the breeding right with an optimal genetic combination, it’s not going to work.

“We clip the sheep’s belly and back and give them a cold-water wash. A fortnight later we give them their first dress, which involves carding (combing) and trimming the fleece. In the week up to the show we dress them again. After they have travelled to the show, they might get a final tidy up if they need it.

“It’s all about enhancing the good bits - and hiding the not so good bits.

“It’s all about the stature and structure of the sheep. They need to be well stood with good legs and feet. The body should be strong with a straight top line. On top of all this, I want them to have a little show ring sparkle.

“We don’t personally halter train them; I handle them with my bare hands when showing them. We find that they respond and show themselves better.” 

READ MORE: Entries now open for the Royal Bath & West Show

Nick Page, flock manager at the Godowood Estate in West Sussex (where there has been a Southdown flock for centuries), is judge at this year's show. 

He has previously judged Southdowns at the Royal Welsh Show in 2023, and the Wayland Show in 2015. 

Nick explains what he is looking for:  “They’ve got to stand well on their feet, with good conformation and a correct mouth. They need to possess the right breed characteristics like woolly ears and a lovely traditional head.

“They should look so good I want to take them home.

“Southdown sheep are an ideal breed, as lambs are early maturing and can be finished off grass. They also work excellently as terminal sires and are easy lambing. Native breeds will have an important role to play in the future of UK sheep genetics.”