It is one of the oldest English breeds, having been developed for centuries in the shire county of Sussex in England. More than 200 years ago, John Ellman set to the radical improvement of the breed by selectively breeding them within the flock. It was the basis of almost the whole Down group of breeds. The popularity of the breed was at its peak from the mid-19th century to World War I. This mutton breed is also an out-of-season breeder with good grazing behaviour. The weight gain of lambs is high, their mutton becomes fatty late (showing a desirable proportion of fat and lean). Their prolificacy ranges from 1.5 to 1.8. The breed is characterized by easy lambing. Their lamb rearing ability is good. Mature weights for ewes range from 55 to 70 kg, and ram weights vary from 70 to 90 kg.