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General Guidelines

Below are some general guidelines for showing Portland sheep and fleeces at livestock events



Showing is the social side of being a shepherd, have fun and chat with your colleagues outside the ring before and after the showing, but in the ring, it is fight to the end :) You are there to enjoy and show your sheep to the outside world, be proud, and go home happy whatever the result, even though that judge knows nothing!


And the Portland Sheep help here, they are shown in their natural state, no fussing or clipping just remove any vegetation or dirt, maybe a bit of baby oil on the horns and in you go.


And bear in mind that different judges look at different aspects; for example, most judges look at commerciality, but for some that means size. As you see in the Portland’s attributes it is a sheep which provides high quality, lower fat meat on smaller joints, ideal for today’s healthy eating society; so, when competing in a mixed class sometimes the big sheep win, but your friend is not and never will be that animal, it is commercial in a variety of ways, it just depends on that judge's focus on that day. Always keep your chin up and smile whatever happens.

New to showing? Your First year


For those new to showing, spend time at other shows to find out what goes on, and start at a local show. Browse as many recent livestock show schedules as possible, as it will provide an insight into different show rules.


Read the Portland Breed Standard which you will find under ‘The Sheep’ tab on this site. Observe the sheep at the shows, do they fit the standard as well as yours? if you see something that does not look right to your eye, then check that with your own sheep when you get home.

Learn ‘ringcraft’


When a judge is considering an animal, you will be asked to walk it out and back – this is the point when you will have the judge’s undivided attention. When you’re turning around to come back, always turn so that you are on the outside of the animal, allowing the judge to see it clearly. Watch the other competitors. Are they doing a good job? Will you do it better?

Become the Shepherd


Watch the shepherd who catches your eye? Are they smartly dressed, do they look calm and confident even when the sheep is behaving not as they wish? What is it that makes you look at them and their sheep, what would you improve? Remember if the shepherd and sheep team catch your eye, it is likely to have been spotted by the judge.



The Portland shepherds are a friendly bunch, nothing is nicer than talking about sheep;  so go along have a chat with them, they will be free with their advice, you can choose which bits you take on board!



So that’s your Christmas present list shorted for this year:

  • Nice Sheep halter

  • A show persons white coat

  • A Portland tie

  • A nice shirt

  • And a Portland sweat shirt to keep you clean until you enter the ring.

The Autumn / Winter before your Show season.


Prepare yourself


You have drawn up your Christmas list but looking the part is important, so remember


  • A clean shirt and a tie always look good,

  • A clean white coat, buttoned up correctly

  • On a wet day wear a waterproof under your coat 

  • Footwear is very important too – flipflops and trainers are a definite ‘no-no’, wellies are just about acceptable in very wet conditions but best of all are clean, sturdy boots or shoes

  • Many young handlers wear a Portland cap too; this looks good but is not vital

  • Try and make sure your animal has a clean halter.


Select your partner

  • Select potential sheep from within your flock for the following Show Season in order to give an adequate period of time to attain good body condition. 

  • Animals to be registered and tagged in accordance with current regulations. 

  • Animals to be in accordance with breed standard - with good conformation and to be well grown for age. 

  • Animals must not have docked tails.

  • Animals to be free from disease. 

  • Rams to be entire and ewes to exhibit good udders.

  • Ewe class entries to have lambed in year of show.

  • Teeth to be level with pad. 

  • Animals should have symmetrical horn patterns avoiding close proximity to head.

  • Select animals that “stand out” from the rest of the flock and appeal to the eye.

  • Straight back; stands four-square; alert expression (“star” quality). 


  • Sheep to be halter trained, stand and move well.

  • Get sheep to walk in a straight line to show efficient gait and correct alignment of limbs. The handler needs to walk alongside the left shoulder of sheep – not in front or behind of the movement.

  • When comparisons are being made between sheep in a line-up, the animal must present itself favourably by standing square – pairs of feet together; back legs slightly back, which allows the spine to appear straight and the head slightly raised. 

  • Practise will get you nearer perfection

  • Practise will get you nearer perfection.

  • Feet to be trimmed. See the husbandry notes on this site; but well-trimmed feet will help the gait of your animal.

  • Choose your shows, have a look at The Portland Sheep Breeders Newsletter to help you decide

  • Ensure entries reach Show Secretary on time. 

  • Be aware of current movement and transport regulations.

On the Day Preparation

  • Make sure you have a clean trailer with fresh bedding

  • Have you prepared your show person’s outfit?

  • Have you your movement paper work completed

  • Clean your animals fleece to be free from dung and vegetable matter -animals to be shown in natural state' -no previous shampooing with soaps or detergents which degrease and result in a soft open white fleece -no trimming, shaping or combing of fleece.

  • It may be helpful to 'wipe' clean the fleece with a dampened sponge/cloth using a very small quantity of “Stergene” in lukewarm water prior to showing. 

  • Horns and hooves may be lightly oiled - suggest 'baby oil' in preference to heavy horse oils, which are tacky and may discolour. 


  • Handler to wear clean white coat and exhibitor's number. 

  • Follow judge’s and steward's instructions and keep sheep under control at all times, stand in front of sheep when judge at rear of line-up and, move to one side when judge views from the front. Always keep sheep between the judge and yourself when instructed to move animals in a circle.

  • Encourage sheep to show itself to best advantage -discourage grazing and lying down.

  • Do not speak to the judge unless asked and do not converse with other exhibitors. But the handler is expected to have knowledge of the animal (when born, when lambed etc) and may be asked

  • You will need to demonstrate ability to control sheep whilst standing in line. That winter practise will pay dividends 

  • Understand tips such as placing the hand under the hin, especially when being examined by the judge. It is important to pay attention to the judge and the animal.

  • It may be helpful to have a few sheep nuts in pocket of overall - do not reward in front of judge. 

  • Know the date of birth of your sheep and lambing dates where appropriate.

  • To members who have never previously entered their Portlands in sheep show classes - please be encouraged by the helpful hints above - the show circuit includes the friendliest group of people you will meet - they will share advice - loan you bits of kit - and even show your sheep for you when you have got just one pair of hands - we look forward to seeing you in the show ring. 

  • Still unsure? Find a mentor! Contact your local regional representative, to find someone nearby to help.

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