The Zwartbles sheep breed originated in the Friesland region of Holland. It's a hardy breed, often pastured with cattle and characterized by the striking white, badger-like facial markings and the 2-4 white socks.
Due to changes in farming practices, the numbers dwindled to approx. 500 animals by 1978 with only about 250 of these considered to be purebred Zwartbles. The breed was adopted by the Dutch Rare Breed Survival trust in the mid-1970s.
Breed numbers began to increase in the late 1970s, primarily due to a resurgence in hobby wool spinning and a desire for natural, black wools. In 1985, Dutch breeders started a Zwartbles flock book.
Zwartbles sheep were first imported to the UK in 1986 and the number grew increasingly in the 1990s. In 1995 the Zwartbles Sheep Association was formed. In 2014 there were around 700 registered flocks and 12,500 registered animals.
Zwartbles wool is medium to fine with excellent crimp and fiber length and a micron count of 27 making it popular for both spinning and felting.