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Jonas Webb | 1903

Founder of the modern form of the Southdown breed of sheep.

1796-1862 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936); original portrait by James R. Stuart

Impact & Accomplishments

Through careful selection, mating, and methodical recording, Jonas Webb is credited with developing the modern form of the Southdown breed—larger, earlier maturing sheep with better fleece quality. Born in Babraham, Cambridgeshire, England, Webb began breeding sheep as a tenant farmer in 1822.

By the 1840s and 1850s, he was the leading breeder of Southdowns and had won prizes at virtually every annual Royal Agricultural Society exhibition. He achieved international recognition in 1855, winning a gold medal for his sheep at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. When the Emperor Napoleon III admired his ram, Webb presented the animal to him, solidifying his reputation in France. Jonas Webb’s sheep were imported all over the world, to countries including France, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia. His flock was dispersed in 1862, and that same year, Webb earned acclaim exhibiting a Shorthorn bull calf.

His portrait was one of the first hung in the Saddle & Sirloin Club.

Did You Know?

Mr. Jonas Webb, of Babraham, and his Three Rams Date:1842. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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