The Cheviot Hills, from which this breed of sheep gets its name, form the border line between England and Scotland. The Cheviot Sheep Society was formed in 1890 and is one of the oldest sheep societies in existence.
The Cheviot Hills, from which this breed of sheep gets its name, and where its improvement has been so long and carefully studied, form the Border line between England and Scotland. From the date of Bannockburn, or earlier, to that of the Union, there is no reliable information further than that sheep were in 1372 "a small, but very hardy race over large tracts of the Cheviot Hills".
During the next four centuries any effort at improvement would most likely relate to the wool. As the church owned considerable portions of land in the hills, and as cattle were the chief plunder of Border Reivers, the care of the best class of sheep may have been with the Monks. Attonburn - attached to Kelso Abbey - may have been distinguished for its sheep in those days, as it is now.
Merino sheep were brought from the Continent in considerable numbers, and as Berwick was a shipping port of importance, an infusion of foreign blood would be easy. Three thousand Merinos were brought to England in 1480 and a similar consignment arrived in the time of Mary and her Spanish husband in 1560.
There is no doubt that the pioneer of the improvement of the Cheviot was Mr. James Robson of Belford, Roxburghshire, a farm in Bowmont Water. He travelled through England looking for the sheep best suited for his purpose. These he found in Lincolnshire and he bought three rams from Mr. Mumby at Barton-upon-Humber. These were big close-coated sheep. When mated with the narrow shouldered, short wooled ewes, there was a vast improvement in the produce, particularly in the fore quarters, while the wool clip increased 20 per cent. Rams from Belford became very popular and their influence spread all over and beyond the Cheviot Hills.
In the latter part of the 18th century Sir John Sinclair strongly recommended it for the North of Scotland where they became very popular. Increased development of cloth manufacturing added to the importance of wool growing, and no wool could compare with the Cheviot in making the durable "Tweeds" for which the Border towns of Selkirk, Galashiels and Hawick became famous.
In 1832 The Highland Society began its exhibition and the earnest attention of enthusiasts was given to the improvement of the breed. James Brydon, Moodlaw and Kinnelhead, held biennial sales of his rams at Beattock, and the sheep were in great demand. In 1855 he sold 169 sheep of various ages, from lambs to six year olds, at an average of nine pounds thirteen shillings, while ten years later he sold the same number at an average of fourteen pounds fourteen shillings.