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 The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram

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rogerpgvg

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PostSubject: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyMon Oct 05, 2020 9:57 pm

This is Britains’s Oxford Down ram:
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There is a bit of a mystery surrounding it, because Oxford Down sheep (either ewes or rams) don’t have horns. Another mystery is why the later version of the Oxford Down ram was released much later than the Oxford Down ewes. Are these mysteries related?

In 1956, Britains started producing these four grey sheep:
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As far as I know, the breed wasn’t specified, they were just named ram, sheep standing, sheep feeding and sheep lying. In 1971, the ewes were replaced by similar, slightly more modern looking ewes (while the lying ewe was discontinued in 1970). They were now named “Oxford Down sheep” in the catalogue. But strangely, the ram was not replaced.

Is this the reason why we have a horned Oxford Down ram? Did the sculptor know that Oxford Down sheep don’t have horns and therefore did not make a horned ram? But the production manager in the company didn’t realise, perhaps thought it was a shame that there was no longer a (probably popular) horned sheep and therefore kept the old version?

At the same time, Britains also introduced Kerry Hill sheep, using the same moulds as the new Oxford Down sheep but coloured white. Kerry Hill sheep normally also don’t have horns, and in this case, Britains got it right. But Britains had not produced white sheep before, so they couldn’t make the mistake of keeping an older horned version.
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Then, in 1979, Britains finally decided to replace the Oxford Down ram with a newer model.
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A final turn in the story came in 2002, when they stopped producing the Oxford Down ewes. Ironically, the only Oxford Down sheep they kept was the ram with the erroneous horns. They no longer say it is an Oxford Down sheep, which makes me wonder what breed they think it is and what breed Britains initially intended when they started producing the grey sheep back in 1956.
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Advicot

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyMon Oct 05, 2020 10:19 pm

The sheep's breed looks a bit like a Balwen, even though it doesn't have the signature white blaze and socks. In my personal opinion these sheep look nothing like Oxford Downs

Here's a Balwen: [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

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Roger
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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyMon Oct 05, 2020 11:57 pm

I love these overviews and questions. I will study it better because I also enjoy this kind of things.
Normally, when a toy manufacturer releases some sheep, the feature they use to identify a ram, is its horns. That was surely a problem to a British brand when most popular breeds of the kingdom have no horns. Mojö Fun, a brand based in England, faced the same exact problem. They couldn't avoid to introduce black-faced sheep but they assumed the horns on their ram were just a commercial decision.
Maybe that ram could work as a Norfolk Horn as pictured below but there we have another problem, ewes are horned and that is also not commercially interesting. I confess the first time I saw a horned breed, was when I was already a grown up man and visited a mountainous region of my country. Those I knew from the South of Portugal were all hornless. So, people not used with farm as I am, have often the perception that rams have horns while ewes do not. It happens especially with people from urban areas, exactly where it is easier to find toys.
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Taos

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyTue Oct 06, 2020 1:53 pm

Interesting topic!As you say Roger it could be a Norfolk Horn but as you pointed out the ewes are also horned and also by the time that Britains produced these models the Norfolk Horn was practically extinct and was recreated by the Rare Breeds Survival trust.At present there are no sheep breeds in the Uk that would match this models as all the black faced sheep breeds are polled and all the horned breeds have different face markings so I think that maybe as suggested most peoples idea of a ram is with horns and a ewe hornless!

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Advicot

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyTue Oct 06, 2020 4:10 pm

That's not what I grew up thinking as we have had hundreds of horned sheep, Scotch Blackface and Swaledales

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Taos

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyTue Oct 06, 2020 4:30 pm

Yes, thats correct Adam,there are lots of British sheep breeds both horned and polled but sadly none of them correspond to the Britains models.Even the Britains Kerry Hill sheep isn't terribly accurate as the model has grey face markings and Kerry hill has black face markings!
Some of the sheep breeds include Suffolk,Portland,Wiiltshire horn,White faced woodland,Boreray,Soay,Shetland,Cotswold,Teeswater,Lincoln longwool,Castlemilk Moorit,Lonk,Derbyshire Gritstone,Hill Radnor,Romney and many more!

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rogerpgvg

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyTue Oct 06, 2020 6:42 pm

Thanks everyone for trying to find out what sheep breed they are. I also did a few searches on the web and also didn't find any breed that has horned rams, polled ewes and are grey with a dark face. I suppose the early Britains sheep must be fantasy sheep - that's perhaps why they were not given a breed name. Or we could pretend that the polled sheep are indeed Oxford Downs, but the horned sheep is a Norfolk horn.

Taylor: yes, the Britains colours are often not very accurate. Some Kerry Hill sheep have darker face markings (quite rare). I think there was a short period that they were painted that way. Not sure when, but they look quite recent.
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SUSANNE
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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyWed Oct 07, 2020 8:30 am

I LOve this topic cheers

For some reason there aren't many sheep in Denmark, so I do not know much about them.
Which is silly, of course, - there aren't many lemurs either, and I read everything about them that I can get hold of Laughing

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Taos

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyThu Oct 08, 2020 10:48 pm

Yes,Susanne the UK has many sheep breeds,one of the highest in the world with primitive,mountain,lowland and meat/wool breeds.

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rogerpgvg

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptySat Oct 10, 2020 1:43 pm

Unfortunately, many breeds are in danger of becoming extinct, because commercially they are not very attractive. The same for many pig, cow and horse breeds.
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Roger
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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptySat Oct 10, 2020 4:28 pm

Yes, it is a fact and it is not different in my country. I am from the South of Portugal and I don't remember seeing the breed of my homeland during my youth. I remember other more conventional looking sheep. I only know this breed, called Churra Algarvia, from regional fairs.
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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptySun Oct 11, 2020 9:27 pm

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In between the rams Roger writes about Britains released the ram above. A small rather ugly model. Here shown with a sheep and some lambs and sheepdog of later series in shiny plastic.

Britains have as addition to the first ones sheeps some eves also made from lead moulds (like the one above). I think the different lines came out of the merger with another company so some of the Herald lines had animals from both companys released under first Herald and then Britains.
For example the black (and more rare white ones) walking lambs, and I think also the four originally white lambs (rare in black) suckling, laying, jumping and standing. Then came another set of white lambs and last the ones above.

/Lennart
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WILLYBACOMAN

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyMon Oct 12, 2020 2:54 am

I think it is quite simple...
Britains just produced farm animals, besides some particulally named horse-breeds, they produced sheep, goats, pigs ect.
They probably tried to name their different breed of sheep later on, but were totally wrong, as this happens in so many manufacturers back in the old days and even these days... Smile

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rogerpgvg

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyMon Oct 12, 2020 6:55 pm

Yes, it's probably simple. In their early years, Britains usually didn't make specific breeds, but when they started replacing their early models in the 1970s, they produced specific breeds, generally quite accurately. The interesting thing for me is that they kept the grey ram and didn't realise it was impossible as an Oxford Down.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:

In between the rams Roger writes about Britains released the ram above. A small rather ugly model.

Ugly? How tastes can differ Very Happy. I think it's the best sheep Britains ever made. They produced one with a white painted head (Welsh mountain sheep, shown in Lennart's photo) and a black head (Scottish blackface).
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There was also a Suffolk sheep with black head (Lennart's photo) and a Charollais sheep with cream head and pink nose.

They were introduced in 1993 when Britains moved part of its production to China. At the same time, Britains also introduced new horses and pigs. As Lennart said, the new sheep replaced the Oxford Down and also the Kerry Hill sheep. But, so the story goes, the moulds in China were destroyed in a fire. At this point, Britains was probably not in a very healthy financial situation (they would be bought by Ertl in 1999), so they didn't make new moulds but instead went back to their old Oxford Down and Kerry Hill sheep. I found this story on the Farm Toys Forum, where they said that it is reported in Model Farmer magazine, Warner Hall article on Britain’s sheep in issue 8 Nov / Dec 2011. If anyone has it, it would be great to see.

I don't completely understand though, because the sheep and pigs were produced until 1996, but the new piglets only lasted two years, until 1994. Was the fire in 1994, but they had already produced so many sheep that they could keep selling them until 1996? Another mystery!
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Taos

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyWed Oct 14, 2020 10:48 pm

I like you,rogerpgvg like the these sheep by Britains and am lucky to have at least one example of each.On the subject of breeds,looking at the pigs made by Britains.They older boar and sow are either Large White/Yorkshire but when they remade them the sow was the same but the boar had morphed into a Middle White as it has a rather squashed face!And when they repainted them in saddleback pigs the sow became an Essex saddleback(later to be merged with the Wessex to become the British saddleback)and the boar became similar to the American Hampshire except for the squashed face!

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyThu Oct 15, 2020 9:02 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

In between the rams Roger writes about Britains released the ram above. A small rather ugly model. Here shown with a sheep and some lambs and sheepdog of later series in shiny plastic.

Britains have as addition to the first ones sheeps some eves also made from lead moulds (like the one above). I think the different lines came out of the merger with another company so some of the Herald lines had animals from both companys released under first Herald and then Britains.
For example the black (and more rare white ones) walking lambs, and I think also the four originally white lambs (rare in black) suckling, laying, jumping and standing. Then came another set of white lambs and last the ones above.

/Lennart
Stockholm

Lennart, please do not use any of my images without my permission. This photo is copyright.

Thanks

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Chris Sweetman

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyThu Oct 15, 2020 9:17 pm

More Britains sheep can be found here:

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Posted this in April 2013 and has links to my FlickR site where this image is stored:

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rogerpgvg

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyThu Oct 15, 2020 9:37 pm

It's good to see that topic with great photos again. You said about the 1993 Welsh mountain sheep/Scottish blackface: "Originally made in China but the mould was brought to England in 1994". That's different from the information I found on the Farm Toys Forum, which mentioned that the moulds were destroyed in a fire in China. Do you know where you found your information? I am just very interested in these odd kinds of information and I wonder what's right.
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Chris Sweetman

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyThu Oct 15, 2020 11:04 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
It's good to see that topic with great photos again. You said about the 1993 Welsh mountain sheep/Scottish blackface: "Originally made in China but the mould was brought to England in 1994". That's different from the information I found on the Farm Toys Forum, which mentioned that the moulds were destroyed in a fire in China. Do you know where you found your information? I am just very interested in these odd kinds of information and I wonder what's right.

In the book 'Suspended Animation' written by Peter Cole.

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rogerpgvg

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyWed Oct 21, 2020 5:53 pm

Thanks, Chris, I found it. Referring to all farm animal models introduced in 1993 (horses, calves, pigs and sheep) Peter Coles says:

"Introduced in 1993. Originally produced in China, all in white plastic, and where necessary painted head to tail. Production [...] has since gone back and forth between China and Britain, and while doing so has changed in plastic colour and paint style. [...] In 1997, [the sheep] were replaced by the figures which they had replaced in 1993." (The revised edition of the book was published in 2004)

To make this consistent with what was mentioned in the Model Farmer magazine, I suppose it's possible that only the moulds that survived the fire in China (horses and calves) moved back to Britain, and this happened after 1997. But you mentioned 1994.

Amazingly, I managed to find the Model Farmer issue from Nov/Dec 2011. I'll let you know what it says once I receive it.
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smallscaleworld

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyMon Oct 26, 2020 2:33 am

As far as I know Roger, Tomy-Takara now have the surviving moulds and whatever IP was attached to them (including the rainbow-stripe Britians logo), they seem to still produce the late issue vinyl farm people, the hard-plastic round bale, some of the late farm buildings and a few animals, but I haven't paid enough attention to the output to give you a list, or know what they have produced themselves under the brand? The tractors are probably all new Tomy pieces?

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Chris Sweetman

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyMon Oct 26, 2020 2:02 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:
Thanks, Chris, I found it. Referring to all farm animal models introduced in 1993 (horses, calves, pigs and sheep) Peter Coles says:

To make this consistent with what was mentioned in the Model Farmer magazine, I suppose it's possible that only the moulds that survived the fire in China (horses and calves) moved back to Britain, and this happened after 1997. But you mentioned 1994.

Amazingly, I managed to find the Model Farmer issue from Nov/Dec 2011. I'll let you know what it says once I receive it.

Hi Roger

Hopefully, the magazine will arrive soon but I would be sceptical regarding 'fire at the factory' rationale offered unless there is actual evidence. It seems strange that the fire destroyed certain castings but not others.

Reasoning behind this is that for years article writers, and book authors, in the die-cast collecting world stated that production of the Spot-On diecast vehicle range made in Belfast was halted due to a fire in the factory. This myth was continued for many years until one of the owners of the Tri-ang Empire said in an interview which was published in a magazine that production was stopped because they also owned the Dinky Toys brand and decided to concentrate on this brand as it was known world wide. And he confirmed that there was no 'fire at the factory'.

There was a fire at the Corgi Toys factory in Swansea and this was well documented and I know a chap that actually worked there when it was a blaze.

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rogerpgvg

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PostSubject: Re: The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram   The mystery of the horned Britains Oxford Down ram EmptyThu Oct 29, 2020 8:46 pm

The article in Model Farmer is written by Warner Hall, who appears to have sent Britains designs for products that they sometimes took up. Here is what the article says:

Sadly these new sheep had a short life, ending in 1996 with the unfortunate destruction of the moulds in the Far East. The only survivors were the moulds for the lambs which remain until today.

There is no mention of a fire. It seems plausible that the moulds were indeed destroyed one way or another, given that they were used for such a short time and given that the lambs for the same Charollais and Suffolk breeds were not discontinued.

When I have the chance, I’ll scan the article and post it. It’s moderately interesting though it contains a few factual errors.
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