Roussin’s were first imported into Britain in 1989 but they originate from the “de la Hague” region of France.
They are the result of crossbreeding breeds local to the ‘de la Hague’ region, with the addition of Dishley, Southdown and Suffolk blood. The local breeds in the 18th century populated the dunes and moors on the coast of Northern France. The English blood was introduced in about 1920, with the aim of improving the size and conformation of the local breeds.
In France the Roussin are grass fed sheep and do well in the oceanic climate of rain and wind in the ‘de la Hague’ region. They are known to cope well on poor ground and are easy to keep. They are naturally prolific.
In France great care has been taken in the development of the Roussin. Strict criteria have to be met, such as conformation, number of lambs born to a ewe, the milking ability of the dam and Daily Liveweight Gain of the lambs. Any lambs not meeting the exacting standards could not be registered for pedigree breeding. UPRA continues to inspect and evaluate the Roussin.
In 2003, a breeding center was set up to jointly manage selection for scrapie resistance and genetic variability of the breed. This dual objective has now been achieved, and the challenge it entailed has greatly contributed to mobilizing farmers in a collective approach that is both enthusiastic and rigorous. The breeding center still has to be an effective selection tool for zootechnical criteria. Today, thanks to this breeding center, breeders are working on a program to combat parasitism in connection with INRA.