"That larger sort, of head defenceless, seek,
Whose fleece is deep and clammy, close and plain;
The ram short-limb'd, whose form compact describes
One level line along his spacious back.
Of full and ruddy eye, large ears, stretched head,
Nostrils dilated, neck and shoulders broad,
And spacious haunches."
             (p.313, Coleman)
The Old Leicester Sheep
"This was a large, heavy, coarse-woolled breed, common to most of
the midland counties, and reaching from the south of Yorkshire, and
the Yorkshire Wolds, as far as Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. It
had a white face, no horns--it was long and thin in the carcass,
flat-sided, with large bones--thick, rough, and white legs--and
weighing, the ewe from 15 to 20 lbs., and the wether from 20 to 30
lbs. the quarter. It was covered with wool from 10 to 14 or 15 inches
in length, coarse in quality, and weighing from 8 to 13 lbs. The pelt
and offal were thick and coarse; the animal was a slow feeder, and
the flesh was coarse-grained, and with little flavour.
(Coleman, p313)
The New Leicester Sheep
It was around 1755..." that Mr. Bakewell of Dishley, near
Loughborough, in Leicestershire, first applied himself to the
endeavor to improve the then existing breed of sheep in that
country. Up to this period very little care had been bestowed
upon the breeding of sheep."
(Coleman, p313)
References:
--Cattle, Sheep and Pigs of Great Britain. Edited by John Coleman. London, 1887.
--Modern Sheep Breeds and Management. By "Shepherd Boy" Associate Editor.
American Sheep Breeder; American Sheep Breeder Co., Chicago, IL 1907
Goals for improvement prior to Bakewell:
1) to breed the largest possible animals
2) to breed the heaviest fleeces

What Bakewell observed that was different:
1) realized that smaller animals gained weight faster
2) that smaller animals consumed less feed
3) the more wool an animal carried, the slower it would gain meat for market

What Bakewell did:
1) selected sheep that appeared to gain weight quicker
2) selected for conformation that he perceived would produce the largest proportion of meat
and the smallest quantity of bone and "offal"
3) placed first value on carcass and secondary value to fleece; he observed that the addition
of 2-3 lbs. of wool to the weight of the fleece meant a sacrifice of 10-12 lbs. of meat
(Coleman,
p314)
"The sort of sheep, therefore, which Mr. Bakewell selected
were those possessed of the most perfect symmetry, with the
greatest aptitude to fatten, and rather smaller in size than the
sheep then generally bred. Having formed his stock from
sheep so selected, he carefully attended to the peculiarities of
the individuals from which he bred, and, it appears, did  not
object to breeding from near relations, when by so doing he
put together animals likely to produce a progency possessing
the characteristics that he wished to obtain."
(Coleman, p314)
"The sheep that first inhabited the North American settlements were of the old
Leicester breed. The improved Dishley breed were not long in finding their way
across the Atlantic."
(Coleman, p326)
Before Bakewell's improvement:
"They had a large hollow behind the shoulders, upon
the top as well as the side, now known by the
technical term of the fore flank, which in a fat sheep,
now, not only fills up the former defect, but even
projects beyond the shoulder and gives a great
roundness to the form of the carcass."
(Shepherd Boy, p90)