The earliest recorded reference to domestic sheep in Canadian history is to the arrival of two wethers aboard DeMont’s pioneer vessels at Port Mouton, Nova Scotia in May 1604. From that time on frequent importations of breeding stock built the Province’s sheep and lamb population to 398,400 at the time of Confederation in 1867. More recent years have seen the sheep population fall to current levels. In 1991 the province reported having 31,670 sheep and lambs on 285 farms. The sale of lambs, sheep and wool generates about 0.5% of gross farm income in the Province.
Approximately 10% of the sheep in Nova Scotia are registered. In the past, the Oxford, Shropshire and Leicester breeds have been prominent. Currently Canadian livestock Records Corporation records show that annual registrations of Dorset and Suffolk breeds are approximately equal in numbers; followed by NC Cheviot and Clun Forest.
In recent years there have been two significant importations of breeding stock. In 1970 the late Dr Brian Nettleton supervised an importation from Scotland of some 1200 head. Most of these sheep were Scottish Blackface, but also NC Cheviot, Hexham Leicester, and Clun Forest. Then in 1975 and 1976, some 3000 head of N.C. Cheviot were imported to Cape Breton from Scotland by the Cape Breton development Corporation. There have also been some smaller importations by private individuals in more recent years. Remnants of these importations can still be found scattered throughout the Province.
There has also been valuable research into varied aspects of sheep production. In the past this work was centered at Agricultural Canada’s Experimental Farm at Nappan and to a lesser extent at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro. Research related to sheep has been discontinued at Nappan, while work at the NSAC is expanding. Currently the focus is on evaluation of the Texel as a terminal sire breed and is under the direction of Dr H Farid.