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A breed developed in Herefordshire (at Archenfeld) on land which originally grew a great deal of rye grass. It's one of Britain's oldest breeds - Ryeland wool being mentioned by the monks of Hereford, in the 12th century.
It's possible the breed descends from the Spanish 'Merino' imported to Britain by the Romans. The breed isn't of much culinary interest, but its wool is second only to Merino in fineness.
Even with this going for it, the breed suffered under the hands of quicker-growing varieties (and cheaper imported wool, of lesser quality) - but was saved, mainly by the efforts of The Rare Breeds Survival Trust and is now much safer.
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