These numbers are thought to be remnants of Brythonic languages
related to Welsh and Cornish. They were collected from many parts of the
British Isles mainly during the 19th century and there are many versions
of them. They were used in children's counting games, and to count sheep
and cattle, knitting stitches, money and so on.
Like traditional Welsh numbers, the sheep scoring systems are vigesimal.
Most versions only go up to 20, and for each 20 or score shepherds would
put a pebble in their pocket, scratch a mark on a stick or stone, or use
grooves, nobbles and nicks in their crooks to keep track of how many they'd
These numbers were used in some places, particularly the Lake District,
until the early 20th century, though by then only a few people remembered them.
Here is a selection of sheep scoring numbers from Cumbria and Yorkshire: