Today Oxfords are raised & used for many different purposes:


1. Purebred breeding stock - Modern Oxfords are very stylish and offer interested breeders a wide selection of sound genetics upon which to build a purebred flock. Oxfords are a large framed breed that maintains soundness of structure.

2. Clublambs - Oxfords make excellent clublambs due to their natural muscling, length of loin, rib, and hip. Often times, Oxford market lambs have the finest loin eye cut when compared to other down breeds. One advantage that Oxfords have over some of the larger breeds is that they tend to be more correct on feet and legs. This is something that will add to the appeal of a good market lamb.

3. Terminal Sires - The Oxford cross has the hardiness and good feet to stand winter finishing in cold climates and makes a heavy, lean hog which sells well in the spring. The pure Oxford or Oxford cross lamb is particularly suited to the home freezer market because the large, lean carcasses allow larger joints with more meat to be prepared. Oxford lamb is also found to have excellent flavor and eating qualities, making it ideal for premium quality markets.

"HISTORY of the OXFORD BREED IN AMERICA"

Original text by Merril Neary
Updated by Wayne O'Brien


Early Development and Expansion

Oxfords were developed in the 1830’s in Oxford County, England. The land in this area is very fertile and abundant crops and forages are produced. The progressive farmers of Oxford County needed a large sheep capable of converting the ample supplies of feed into wool and meat.

At that time, the Hampshire breed was being developed in a neighboring county. The Hampshire of that time was a large, hardy, bare-faced breed that was being improved in its caucus quality by the careful addition of Southdown bloodlines. It was felt by the founders of Oxfords that the Hampshire was not large enough to fully utilize the feeds available in their region and it's wool, while of good quality , was low in quantity. To the west of Oxford Country lay the country of Cotswold, which contained the massive, longwool breed of the same name.

A deliberate cross was made between these two breed to take advantage of the hardiness, muscling and wool quality of the Cotswold. This resulted in a sheep ideally suited to the area. After 1850 little crossbreeding was done and efforts were made to establish Oxford breed type through line breeding and selection. The Oxford was recognized as a true and distinct breed at the Royal Agricultural Society Show in 1862.

The impressive qualities of the new breed caught the eye of American importers. The first Oxfords came to North American in 1846. Several other importations continued to be made until 1900 and to a limited extent afterwards. The American Oxford Down Record Association was founded in 1882 at Xenia, Ohio.

Oxfords imported prior to 1900 were very large, rectangular, upstanding, strong topped, wide backed, long bodied, stylish, and nearly black in color with only a small amount of wool on the head and legs. Mature rams were known to have weighed over 400 pounds. The breed at this point tended to lack somewhat in hindquarter muscling. The fleece weight was 12-20 pounds in a year's clip. Some individuals had coarse or loose fleeces.

Breeders of that time continued to breed a similar type sheep while striving to improve the fleece quality and muscling. The breed spread rapidly into Eastern Canada, the Great Lakes States, and the Cornbelt. Farm flock owners of that time sought the massive Oxford rams to use on their native ewes to improve the growth rate and carcass quality of the lambs. The Oxford lambs grew rapidly and continued to grow efficiently at heavier weights without becoming overly fat. The Oxford cross ewe was valued for her heavy milking qualities, twinning ability, docile disposition, heavy shearing, and overall size and large structure.

Oxfords were used with success by a number of western commercial sheep producers to cross on finewool ewes. However, they did not enjoy the widespread acceptance in that area that they did in the farm flock region.

Oxfords continued to expand in numbers into the 1900's despite strong competition from Shropshires and Hampshires. In the early 1900's Oxfords were the third most numerous breed of sheep registered in America. At this point the breed had changed very little since its early importation. The color had been lightened to include a white spot on the nose in some flocks. Perhaps the breed was slightly smaller and heavier muscled. However, without a doubt, Oxfords were the largest size of any of the Down breeds by a good margin.

 

Changing Type

During the 1930's a movement developed toward a more compact, round type of sheep. The goal was to produce a fattened market lamb at an 80-85 pound weight. Educators, breeders, associations, and packers put their efforts toward change the type of all breeds. Oxford sired lambs were widely criticized for being too large, growthy, and failing to cary enough fat at the desired market weight. A strong, but not uniform, effort was made by Oxford breeds to reduce the size of the Oxford conformation to that type being proposed by industry leaders.

Suddenly, Oxfords were selected that were smaller, shorter legged, shorter bodied, less rectangular, and more compact. The wool covering increased on the head and legs. The muscling qualities were improved. The fleece became denser with less staple length. There is significant evidence that Shropshire and Southdown blood was introduced into the breed to accomplish the desired results in some cases.

Much has been said for and against this changing of the traditional Oxford type from the big, almost black Oxfords originally imported from Europe and the British Isles. The pictures contrasting the two types speak for themselves. To this day breeders in the 30's to 50's have been strongly criticized for reducing the size of the Oxford while attempting to develop an earlier maturing, heavier muscled sheep. This was the trend in all breeds and was the path of least resistance. If this change in type had not been carried too far, the breed would have been improved. The movement toward small sheep with more wool covering continued through the 40's and reached its peak in the late 1950's.

The reduction in size of Oxfords during the 30's-50's was accompanied by a parallel action to change the color of the Oxfords to a light gray or white. Entire breeding programs of some flocks were based on the goal of lightening the face coloring. Outstanding individuals were rejected by breeders and judges because they were "too dark".

The merit of changing the size, face covering, and coloring of the Oxford sparked controversy and debate from the time Oxfords were downsized and face color and wool cover was changed. It is unfortunate but the fact remains that as Oxfords became smaller and lighter in color, their popularity dropped drastically. Oxfords, as with many breeds, let the show ring, rather than the economics and practical quality of the breed dictate type.

It is to the everlasting credit of the Oxford breed that it remained a useful sheep through this period. A lesser breed would have perished into the ornamental category. One could only hope that the Oxford breeder will never again abandon the utility of the breed and the qualities that made it so popular before the movements of the 30's - 50's.

 

Oxfords Refocus Their Direction

In the late 1950's and into the 1960's a new generation of livestock producers began to question the theories of the previous 30 years. They conducted carcass cutout tests, production tests, and feed efficiency tests. They found that the compact market lamb yielded a much higher percentage of fat and less eating meat than the consumer desired. In addition, they were inefficient to produce and could not be carried to heavier weights without becoming excessively fat. The breeding sheep that produced this type of lamb were found to be less efficient and productive than the larger-framed sheep.

The call went out for purebred breeders to produce a larger, more productive sheep. A lamb capable of reaching heavier weights efficiently and quickly was desired. Emphasis was place on the length and thickness of the hindquarter. A minimum of fat covering in proportion to red meat was sought in market lamb s. Oxfords had retained these traits to a greater extent than many other breeds.

Oxford breeders had successfully improved the muscling qualities of the breed for the past ten years. The Oxford has always been a leaner type sheep. This inherent quality along with the greater emphasis breeders had placed on length and thickness of hind saddle made Oxfords a heavily muscled breed that carried a minimum of fat. Oxford sired lambs began doing very well in carcass shows and evaluation tests, especially considering the small number of oxfords entered into carcass evaluation.

The demand for larger sheep sparked leading Oxford breeders to regain the traditional size of Oxfords. Fortunately, during the trend to smaller sheep, not all breeders went too far in that direction. Some breeders who were against the change to downsize the breed closed their flocks and stayed out of the show ring during that time. Suddenly, many of these individual flocks were sought out to influence the Oxford breed. The purpose of this was to use those very large individuals within the breed to improve the size, length, and scale of their flocks.

 

Importation of Scottish Oxford Bloodlines to America

In the early 1970's several progressive breeders were concerned with the decreasing gene pool of the Oxfords in America. During the same time the Canadian Government imported several pregnant Oxford ewes from different genetic lines into Eastern Canada from Scotland. Several quality offspring were born in quarantine in Canada. Included in this group were the infamous Deshambault 6C, Deshambault 5C, and Maragold 18F. These imported rams and several females became dispersed into several Oxford flocks in the Ontario and Quebec Provinces.

Canadians Oxford breeders were also in need of broadening their genetic pool. Progeny of the Canadian importation from Scotland ended up in Oxford flocks in Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa throughout the late 70's and into the 1980's. Several young Canadians became consistent consigners to the National Oxford Show in Sale, and annual event that took place in June at Ottawa, Illinois.

Some breeders were quicker to recognize the genetic potential of these sheep from the north. Others criticized them for their dark points because few were old enough to remember what true Oxford type looked like as opposed to what some had adapted it to. A tremendous genetic punch was soon realized by the breeders who used these lines in their breeding programs. Several breeders began infusing the Scottish bloodlines on both the sire and dam sides of their breeding program. The impact was significant in boosting both size and desired structural qualities of the Oxfords in America. In 1975 a Oxford yearling ewe bred in Kentucky and sired by a straight Scottish breed ram (Deshambault 5C from the Guaranteen Station in Canada, acquired from Russ Dowe) was named Supreme Champion Ewe at the prestigious North American International Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1981 an Oxford ram named "The Executive" was named Supreme Champion Ram at the North American International. The same ram then went on to be selection the Supreme Champion Sheep of the entire show between the breed champion rams and ewes! "The Executive" was sired by a American raised ram "Nucleus." "Nucleus was sired by the Scottish ram Marigold 18F. "The Executive" was damned by the Canadian bred ewe photographed below who was out of the immortal Deshambault 6C, a Scottish ram.

 

Oxfords on the Move

During the 1980's and well into the '90's Oxfords popularity spread. During this time their was a major increase in registrations, transfers, and many record prices were established and quickly broken at the National Oxford Sale. Oxford popularity began on the West Coast during the 70's and really took off during the 80's and 90's and expanded into more southern and eastern states as well. Oxford market lambs became increasing popular in many parts of the county due to their overall quality and design, style, and eye appeal.

A new generation of Oxford breeders were challenging many of the big names in the business. Oxford Flocks were being founded by many breeders as their primary breed or they were picking them up as a second breed. Oxfords were also being added by several as youth as 4H, FFA, or hobby projects. Most importantly their was a renewed sense of competition and a willingness to advertise and promote the Oxfords they were producing.

The National Sale was moved from Ottawa, Illinois to Springfield, Illinois where there were multiple breeds holding show/sales. This proved to be a good move in opening up the Oxford market and making transportation to far reaching boundaries of the country accessible and affordable.

Between the mid 80's to the mid 90's three more Oxford Supreme Champion were crowned at the North American International Oxford Show in Louisville, Kentucky. Oxfords were competing well in the show ring but the success overshadowed hard times to come.

 

Oxfords in the New Millennium

Success can sometimes lead to complacency. When things are going well is not the time to set back and rest on your past achievements. Cutting corners on promotion began to take its toll on interest of new people. Several breeders passed away, retired, or lost interest. The challenge of the new Millennium is to replace those we have lost with new, enthusiastic, and committed Oxford breeders that will stay in it for the long haul.

Secondly, we need to make our product more available and spark interest through advertising, promotions, and creative ideas to spark interest and enthusiasm for Oxford sheep. Several breeders are now supporting additional all breed sales to get our product out in front of the public. The Ohio Oxford Showcase Sale began in 2005 and has proven to be a successful compliment to the National Oxford Show and Sale. Oxfords are affordable and attractive but need to be more available to encourage more widespread growth.

Thirdly, it will take the commitment of all breeders to get behind efforts to promote the breed. This means Oxford breeders being willing to dig into their own pockets to support promotional ideas and programs. Sitting back and waiting for someone else to do it is counter productive and gets nothing accomplished. To promote successfully takes the commitments of many people.

Finally, there are other ways to promote the breed than pumping money into show premiums. At the June 2006 Annual Meeting, the general membership voted to go forward with a website for the breed. We hope you are enjoying what we have to offer here. Modern technology will help to breath life back into Oxfords and revitalize the breed and its commitment to persevere.

Oxford Breed Type

AOSA Standards

 

General Appearance

The Oxford has a bold, masculine head, well set on a strong neck, with poll well-covered with wool and adorned by top knot. The face, ears and legs are a uniform dark color. The ears are medium in length and covered with some wool. The shoulders are broad, with a broad chest, well forward. The Oxford is an excellent meat and wool producer. The wool is compact, free of and black fiber and of good stable length. The back is full and level, the ribs are well sprung, the barrel deep, thick and long, with a straight underline.

The conformation of the Oxford is large, stylish and long-bodied with moderate depth. The Oxford shows heavy muscling qualities. Particular emphasis is placed on length and hind saddle. It is heavy in the loin and carries heavy muscling throughout, especially through the rear quarters. The top is straight and the chest is full.

The Oxford walks with a bold, alert movement with the head held high. The legs are strong in bone, short in pasterns and correctly placed. Again, it must be emphasized that the Oxford possesses a heavy loin with particular emphasis on length, thickness and muscling of the hind saddle. When fully matured and in good condition, rams are to weigh over 250 pounds and ewes over 200 pounds.

 

Color Variation

The typical Oxford brown has no suggestion or black about it. Shades of coloration should range from steel gray to a dark (chocolate) brown. The color of the face, ears and legs should match.

Steel Gray

Dark (Chocolate) Brown

Black

 

Skin

The skin is bright pink and healthy looking.


Fleece

Over the entire body the fleece is compact, of uniform quality and with good staple length. fleece of 3/8 to 1/4 blood is preferred. The fleece is white and carries sufficient yolk to keep it in good condition. An Oxford is expected to shear 10 to 12 pounds annually of quality fleece.

Neck

The neck is well proportioned, free from wrinkles and smoothly blended into the shoulders.

 

Shoulders

The shoulders are compact, well muscled, smooth and neatly laid in on top and level with the back (shoulders bred too wide can make the lambing process difficult, be mindful of this trait when breeding).

 

Chest

The chest is wide and deep showing good heart and lung capacity, but not to appear heavy front-ended.

 

Back

The back is long, straight, wide and heavily muscled. Ribs The ribs are well sprung with a wide loin.

 

Hips

The hips are wide apart and smoothly laid in.

 

Hind Quarters

The hind quarters are large, full and well muscled with particular emphasis on outside muscling.

 

Belly

The barrel is deep, thick and long with a straight underling; the belly is covered with wool (allowed to be sheared when fitted if preferable to breeder).

 

Scrotum

The scrotum is good sized, well hung and covered with wool (allowed to be sheared--fertility reasoning). It carries two well-developed testicles.

 

Head

The head is of moderate length and width for the size being proportional to the body. It should be balanced and carried well--masculine in rams and feminine in ewes.

 

Eyes

The eyes are large, clear and fairly prominent. Face The face is open with wool channeling on each side of the face preferably. The profile of the nose is straight, not roman. It is desired that top of the nose carry white hairs but not mandatory.

 

Ears

The ears are medium length, carried straight out with a cover of wool or hair that matches face and legs.

 

Legs

The legs are straight, heavy boned and standing wide apart, but correctly placed. They are covered with white wool down to the knees/hocks, showing a wool covering below the knee/hock with color to match the face and ears.

 

Pasterns

The pasterns are straight, strong and short with no sign of weakness.

 

Hoofs

The hoofs are dark in color. The feet are sound.

 

Discriminations:

*Wool blindness *Wrinkles *Scures *Colored fibers in fleece *Post legged *sickle hocked * Slick Ears * Long, pointed ears *Extremely coarse or loose wool

 

Disqualifications:

*Speckled face, ears or legs (white blotches) *Black or brown spots on skin *One or both testicles not descended *Inverted eyelids *Incisor teeth not meeting dental pad *Ears drooping or carried forward *Long, weak pasterns *Black face,ears, legs *Roman nose

 

Scale of Judging for Oxford Sheep

General Conformation - 65 % Breed Character & Structural Correctness - 25 % Wool - 10 %

The History of the National Sale

by Merrill Neary, Irwin Jackson, and Wayne O'Brien

The first North America Show and Sale devoted exclusively to Oxford sheep took place at Keosauqua, Iowa in June of 1959. The Iowa-Missouri Oxford Association sponsored the event. Entries were limited to breeders from these two states. Tom Dawson of Iowa and C.E. (Charlie) Burris of Missouri planned the original show and sale. Tom Dawson managed the Iowa-Missouri Oxford Show and Sale through 1961.

Original consigners included Burris, Dawson, Roy Miller, Rudasill Farms and Joe Bill Reid. Consignment numbers were low, as were prices. Fred Laubach (FreMar Farm) purchased Burris; 1960 champion ewe for $ 85.00. She was later Iowa State Fair's Champion Oxford Ewe. Laubach bought Neary's 1961 champion ram pictured below for $100.00.

In 1962, Merrill Neary took over management of the show and sale. He moved the location to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport Iowa. The show and sale was opened up to consignments for the United States and Canada. The location, along with much persuasion by the sale management, accomplished the goal of making it a truly national show and sale. Breeders from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin joined the Iowa and Missouri breeders in 1962-1963. The mid-1960's ushered in breeders from Michigan, Ohio, New York, Minnesota and Canada to the show and sale.

During the early of the Keosauqua and Davenport show and sale, Dewey Jontz, Feldman for the Iowa Sheep Association, judged the show. Dewey emphasized muscling qualities in his selections. This was a positive influence on the breed.

The first few Davenport show and sales were low key. The sheep were shown on a grassy slope. Spectators sat in chairs under shade trees adjacent to the "show ring." Some said it reminded them of the British shows. The event was later moved to an inside arena.

Numbers and quality of the National Oxford Show and Sale showed improvement during the Davenport years. Chicago International and state fair winners were sold in the sale. Prices were still modest. The better sheep sold in the $200 to $250 price range. Overall price and quality were still a challenge. The event was a place for Oxford breeders from across North America to gather, show and sell sheep at an acceptable price for that time.

In 1970, Merrill Neary turned over management of the National Show and Sale to Tom Durham. Tom moved the the location to Princeton, Illinois. This location attracted more entries than previous. The purebred sheep business was starting to show some life. Attendance at the show improved. The 1970 sale prices were very modest.

The 1970 show and sale featured a type discussion. The debate was between the lighter featured Oxfords spawned through the 1950's vs their darker featured, larger English bred predecessors. This argument was not the first nor the last of it's kind. One thing was for sure; this type of discussion served no purpose and tended to cause breeders to sell their Oxfords and take up other breeds of sheep.

In 1971, breeders, at the urging of sale management, brought out better sheep and prices improved. In 1972, the American Oxford Sheep Association, or the AODRA (American Oxford Down Record Association) as it was called then assumed responsibility for the management of the National Show and Sale. This seemed like a logical move. The sale had achieved a level of success. The AODRA could gain revenue. Jim Hanson was the AODRA secretary and also the show and sale manager.

1972 saw the best ever consignments and prices. Gerald Thoma purchased Neary's champion ram at $670.00. This a new record price and the first Oxford ram to exceed $500.00 at auction. The strong 1972 sale caused increased enthusiasm and interest in the Oxford breed. Clearly, if a breeder had a good Oxford, you could expect it to bring a decent price at the National Show and Sale....

Champion Ram – National Oxford Sale

In memory of a lifetime dedication to the Oxford breed and the sheep industry. Wally W. Watts was a long time breeder, Association President, and Breed Secretary. His greatest enjoyment came from his endless support of and dedication to the youth of the Oxford breed and all of agriculture.

September 28, 1913 - April 10, 1996

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Ron Brockman, Illinois to Roy Wright, Ohio $950.00
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to Chad Von Holten, Illinois $1,325.00
Don Lutz, Wisconsin to Jason Dockter, Washington $1,600.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Robert Jackson & Family, Ohio $1,100.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Greenwood/Jackman, Michigan $5,500.00
Lutz Oxfords, Wisconsin to The Syndicate, Indiana $6,000.00
Ethan Smith, Illinois to Vernon Rich, Michigan $500.00
Lutz Oxfords, Wisconsin to Mike Robinson, Illinois $1,750.00
Lutz Oxfords, Wisconsin to Jeremy Hatfield, Illinois $800.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Frank Silva Family, California $2,000.00
Lutz Family Oxfords, Wisconsin to Emerald Valley Farm, Wisconsin $3,100.00
Dover Genetics, Illinois to Kelly & Lauren Beatty, Connecticut $1,250.00
Double “A” Oxfords, Indiana to Tim Roberts, Oklahoma $1,075.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Peterson Oxfords, Illinois $600.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Jonah Lasater, Missouri $400.00
Ronald Shrout, Kentucky to Everett Oxfords, Pennsylvania $4,750.00
Everett Oxfords, Pennsylvania to Barb Frampton, Illinois $900.00
Double “O” Acres, Iowa to Sammy VanEck, Illinois $500.00
Tank’s Oxfords, Illinois to Buck Shot Farms, LLC, Ohio $700.00

Daniels Oxfords, Illinois, to John Apple and Mike Elsbury, Indiana, $1,600.00
John Apple and Family, Indiana to Mike and Karen Elsbury & Family, Indiana, $1,000.00
Double “O” Acres, Iowa to Allee Grimme, Ohio, $1,400.00

Austin Brockmann, Illinois to Tim and Stacey Gadsby, Ohio, $700.00
Four Season Farm, Illinois to Barb Frampton, Illinois, $1,150.00
No show held due to COVID-19
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to Kendrick Campbell, Ohio, $600.00
Brockmann Oxfords, Illinois to Lauren Mohr, Illinois, $4,200.00
Lillibridge Oxfords, IA $800.00 Bella Foley, OH

Champion Ewe – National Oxford Sale

In loving memory of Ron O’Brien for a life long dedication to the Oxford Breed. His enthusiasm and support of Oxfords across the country sparked renewed interest for the breed within the sheep industry. His love of family, his wit, his unconscious work ethic, his competitive spirit, and his love for his flock of Oxford sheep are qualities that endeared him to those who knew him and loved him.

June 21, 1948 - April 11, 1996

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Double O Acres, Iowa to Greenwood/Jackman, Michigan $1,225.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Greenwood/Jackman, Michigan $1,750.00
Edgewood Farms, Illinois to Kent Cunningham, Indiana $2,500.00
High Imperial Farm, California to Greenwood Farm, Michigan $6,000.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Kent Cunningham, Indiana $1,850.00
Edgewood Farms, Illinois to Max Van Meter, Indiana $1,200.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Double “A” Oxfords, Indiana $1,500.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Nilsen Farms, California $3,000.00
Edgewood Farms, Illinois to LeAnn Hall, Illinois $3,700.00
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to Cliff & Karen Perzee $3,500.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Frank Silva Family, California $1,800.00
Double O Acres, Iowa to Frank Silva Family, California $4,600.00
Lutz Oxfords, Wisconsin to Mona Lisa Pettersson, Oregon $2,000.00
Dover Genetics, Illinois to Rachel Dey, New Jersey $2,250.00
Jeremy Hatfield, Illinois to Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois $2,700.00
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to Cedar Lane Farms, Ohio, $3,500.00
Perzee Oxfords, Illinois to Midwest Oxfords, Indiana $2,200.00
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to Darwin Hall, Illinois $2,600.00

Double “A” Oxfords, Indiana to Owen Walker, Oklahoma $2,200.00
Ty Miller, Indiana, to Messenger Farms, Ohio, $4,900.00
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to Messenger Farms, Ohio, $3,100.00
Everett Oxfords, Pennsylvania to Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois, $1,100.00
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to April Hall, Illinois, $2,000.00
Winning Ways Sheep Farm, Illinois to Jillian Bingen, Wisconsin, $1,700.00
No show held due to COVID-19
Double "A" Oxfords, Indiana to Edwards Oxfords, Illinois, $2,600.00
Double "A" Oxfords, Indiana to Derek Burns, Ohio, $1,400.00
Brockmann Oxfords, IL $1,200.00 Derek Burns, OH