IMG_2867We have a small mixed colour flock of 17 registered Shetland ewes and 2 registered rams. We hope to have lambs in April. The Shetland sheep is a small, fine-woolled breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles, but now also kept in many other parts of the world. It is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group. Shetlands are classed as a “unimproved” breed. This breed is kept for its very fine wool, for meat, and for conservation grazing.

Although Shetlands are small and slow-growing compared to commercial breeds, they are hardy, thrifty, easy lambers, adaptable and long-lived. The Shetland breed has survived for centuries in difficult conditions and on a poor diet so they thrive in better conditions. Shetlands retain many of their primitive survival instincts so they are easier to care for than many modern breeds.

The Shetland sheep is a small, fine-woolled breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles, but now also kept in many other parts of the world. It is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group. Shetlands are classed as a “unimproved” breed. This breed is kept for its very fine wool, for meat, and for conservation grazing.
Although Shetlands are small and slow-growing compared to commercial breeds, they are hardy, thrifty, easy lambers, adaptable and long-lived. The Shetland breed has survived for centuries in difficult conditions and on a poor diet so they thrive in better conditions. Shetlands retain many of their primitive survival instincts so they are easier to care for than many modern breeds.

Breed characteristics
Shetlands appear in a wide variety of colors, many of which are called by their traditional names by breeders
The Shetland is one of the smallest British breeds. The ewes are usually polled (hornless) and the rams usually horned. The breed is noted for its very fine, soft wool and the high quality of its meat, though its smaller size limits its use in commercial meat markets. They are small-bodied animals with no wool on the face, nose or legs, and small, erect ears. The legs are of medium length and finely boned. A distinguishing feature of northern short-tailed sheep is the short, fluke-shaped tail, broad at the base, tapering to a point, and covered towards the tip in hair, not wool.
Shetlands occur in very many different colours and patterns, most of which have particular names.
Rams usually weigh 90 to 125 lb (41 to 57 kg) and ewes about 75 to 100 lb (34 to 45 kg).

Shetland wool
The wool produced by the Shetland has historically been a valued commodity. Shetlands produce numerous shades of wool colours, and this variety was commercially important to the wool industry of the Shetland Isles, where natural wools are often used undyed. Tweed is also produced from the coarser Shetland wool but the Isles are best for their multi-coloured knitwear and for the traditional knitted lace shawls which are so fine they will pass through a wedding ring. Fleeces usually weigh between 2 and 4 lb (0.91 and 1.8 kg).

Lambing
Like other “primitive” breeds the ewes are highly seasonal, becoming fertile in October and November (in the northern hemisphere) and lambing in spring or summer. On the poor grazing of the breed’s native Isles the lambing percentage is about 130%. However, when the ewes are on better pasture, twin lambs are more common, especially from mature ewes. Shetland ewes are hardy, easy lambers, good mothers and produce a lot of milk. Healthy lambs are born weighing around 4 to 7 lb (2 to 3 kg).

Colours and patterns
Shetland sheep can show almost all possible sheep colours and patterns, although solid white and solid moorit (reddish brown) are most common. Many of the colours and patterns have Shetland dialect names – these derive from the Norn language formerly spoken in Shetland, and similar names are also used in at least one other Nordic language: Icelandic.
Eleven main colours are recognised (most including many different shades): light grey, grey, white, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), musket (light greyish-brown), shaela (dark steely-grey), black, fawn, moorit (reddish brown), mioget (honey-toned, yellowish-brown), dark brown.
Over thirty different coat patterns are recognised, many of which can occur in combination. They include katmoget (“badgerface”: dark belly and dark shading around nose and eyes, lighter elsewhere), gulmoget (“mouflon”, the reverse of katmoget: light belly, dark face with light marks around eyes, dark elsewhere), yuglet (generally light with dark “panda” patches around eyes), bleset (dark with white blaze down face), smirslet (white marking around muzzle), sokket (with white socks on legs), bersugget (irregular patches of different colours) and bielset (with a collar of a differing colour).