The Zwartbles sheep
Zwartbles sheep of the Friesland region of
Holland were developed for milk and cheese production.
Changes in dairying practice this century caused them to decline, until they were adopted by the Dutch Rare Breed Survival
Trust in the mid-1970s. In 1985 a Flock Book was formed, and numbers have steadily increased. In 1995, a Zwartbles
Sheep Association was formed in Great Britain after some of these attractive sheep were imported from Holland.
Breeds of sheep, perhaps more than any other
type of domesticated animal, closely reflect the specialised requirements
native, historical homelands. The sheep of Bethlehem, then and now, were almost certainly a variety of the lop-eared, fat-tailed
sheep so prevalent in Africa and Mediterranean regions to this day. In Britain we think of sheep as producers of wool and
meat. All over the Middle East and Europe, however, sheep have been bred with the primary purpose of producing milk for
So, while the shepherds watched their flocks
by night, the travellers in nearby Bethlehem may have been lucky enough
sample the sheep's cheese.