History of Texels in Ireland

The Texel sheep breed originated in Holland and is named after Texel Island off the North Sea coast of Holland. From as far back as 1802 the Dutch Government developed breed improvement programmes for Texel sheep.

The Texel breed is now excelling worldwide. France introduced Texels in 1933 and has the oldest flock book outside Holland. There is now a tremendous demand for Texels in Canada, United States, New Zealand and Australia.

The first Texels were imported into Ireland by the Department of Agriculture in 1964. In view of their reputed prolificacy, some of the rams were crossed with native breeds (Scottish Blackface, Cheviot and Galway), to compare the resultant crossbred ewes with the then more traditional Border Leicester crosses. Other breeds were included in a large scale comparison of terminal sire breeds, conducted by the Agricultural Research Institute, in the production of slaughter lambs. It was this work that highlighted the breed’s excellent carcass quality and, in particular, the high lean content and large eye muscle of the Texel cross carcasses. They were found to contain four per cent more lean meat and four per cent less fat than the average of the other sire breeds included in the comparison.

A further import of 100 Texels by the Department in 1972 from Texel Island had to be quarantined and tested on Department farms for fear of Maedi Visna. It was a further four years before they were given a clean bill of health and some of them were allocated to a number of interested breeders, who were selected by ballot. Each breeder was allowed to purchase four pedigree Texel ewes and a ram. These 15 breeders in conjunction with the Department of Agricultural Colleges, founded the Irish Texel Sheep Society in 1976. With the assistance of Department officials, these foundation members drafted a set of rules and constitution for running the Society. Six of these foundation flocks are still in existence today. The society was set up at a meeting in the Department of Agriculture on 17th June 1976.

The society grew quite rapidly and the number of members doubled within 2 years and by 1980 had increased to 60 members. Membership grew steadily through the 1980s until it reached its peak of 350 in 1993/94 and currently stands at approx 345 members.