Wednesday, December 15, 2010
From One Tiny Remote Island to Another
My friends Marie-Ange and Andrew have just welcomed seven little bundles of joy to their farm. After much patient waiting and applying for permits, they were able to import a flock of Soay sheep. Soays are tiny - this picture shows them on the ferry on their trip here - four ewes fit in a dog crate!
The rare Soay sheep is a primitive breed of domestic sheep descended from a population of feral sheep on the 250-acre island of Soay in the St. Kilda Archipelago, about 65 kilometres from the Western Isles of Scotland. It is believed to be a survivor of the earliest domesticated sheep kept in northern Europe, and it remains physically similar to the wild ancestors of domestic sheep. It is much smaller than modern domesticated sheep but hardier, and is extraordinarily agile, tending to take refuge amongst the cliffs when frightened.
There's the older ram, Rochdale, enjoying shelter from the rain. Soays are not sheared, but their soft wool can be plucked or "rooed".
And here are the ewes: Walsham, Sudbury, Roughton and Cromer. They did seem shy on my visit - perhaps the presence of Gracie made them nervous.
Here's more about Soay sheep(and some lovely photos). And check out the incredible, thrilling tale of how the sheep came to Oregon.