The Belclare Sheep breed was a new word among sheep breeds in Ireland, when they appeared on the scene in the late 1970’s.
This new breed was developed at An Forus Taluntais research center at Belclare hence the
name of the breed. The Belclare breed came about solely by the vision, dedication and foresight
of one man, Dr. J.P. Hanrahan, An Forus Taluntais (Now Teagasc). Dr Hanrahan is a scientist in
sheep breeding with much experience in Australia and elsewhere. Back home Dr Hanrahan saw
the necessity to raise lamb numbers in the national flock where lamb percentage at the time
stood at approx 125%. His initial work on the Belclare project involved research with ewes
of many breeds that occasionally produced triplets. He later carried out trials with Finnish
Landrace on Galway sheep. He next introduced Lleyn Sheep to the mix in the mid 70’s and so
the nucleus of the Belclare was formed. The breed was first introduced to farmers in 1982 when
a small number of sheep farmers were approached to breed rams for the institute which were
bought back in the autumn for redistribution to interested sheep farmers.
Forming the Belclare Sheep Society
A meeting took place in the Royal Hoey Hotel, in Athlone on the 11th of October 1985. The
purpose of the meeting was to form the Belclare Sheep Society. After long hours of discussions and suggestions the Belclare Sheep Society was formed and following officers were elected.
President: Dr J.P. Hanrahan, Chairman Mr. PJ O Dea, Galway, And Secretaries Mr Pat O’ Dea,
Agricultural Institute, Mr. Joe Teasdale, Kilkenny, Committee: Mr. Niall Connelly, Louth, Mr. Pat
Carey, Wicklow and Mr. Tom Sice, Galway.
The Early Belclare
The first Belclare sheep where called Belclare improvers and had a significant amounts of
Finnish Landrace blood. Litter size was high but the breed lacked substance and conformation.
To rectify this the Belclare’ s were crossed with Texel rams to produce what was termed the
Belclare Mark II from which today’s Belclare sheep have originated.
The Belclare sheep that are found on Irish farms today are very different sheep from their
ancestors that started the breed almost 40 years ago. Infusions of Texel blood coupled with
rigorous selection and culling by dedicated Belclare breeders resulted in the specimens that
are seen on farms nowadays. This has allowed the Belclare not only to command the premier
position as a maternal sire but also allows it to compete with terminal sire breeds as a breed that
is able to sire rapidly growing fleshy lambs.