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Where is it Located

About the Paddock

Animals of all kinds played an important role in George Washington's life and the economy of Mount Vernon. Depending on the time of year visitors can see a variety of animals within the paddock. The most common are sheep. Mount Vernon was home to many sheep in Washington’s time and his flock ranged from 600-1,000. Sheep were very important, providing wool for clothing and blankets, manure for crop fertilization, meat for mutton and spring lamb, and lanolin for ointments.

Today, Mount Vernon raises Hog Island sheep, a rare breed that is native to Virginia and dates back to the 1600s. Hog Island is a barrier island off the Delmarva Peninsula where the sheep survived for hundreds of years until the Nature Conservancy purchased the island in 1974. The sheep were dispersed to historic sites mostly in Virginia. While we are not sure this is the breed Washington raised, they resemble sheep found in the colonies in the 1700s. Hog Island sheep are listed as “critical” with The Livestock Conservancy.

Due to the critically low numbers of the sheep, Mount Vernon is involved in a careful breeding program. We follow Washington’s timeline for both breeding and shearing. Every October, our sheep are divided into breeding flocks and we welcome new lambs in March. Our sheep are sheared every May using hand shears for the public to see.