Soay: the most primitive and unique of all sheep
Soay are unlike any other sheep, being the most primitive of all sheep breeds. They have intriguing, very varied characteristics and so each one has not only a character of their own, but also looks of their own. They are excellent conservation grazers, being content in woodland and on hillsides. The Soay breed was listed in 2015 as “Category 4: At Risk” by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, because there are only between 900 and 1500 registered breeding Soay ewes.
The history of Soay
The Soay sheep is a breed of domestic sheep descended from a population of feral sheep on the 100-hectare island of Soay in the St Kilda Archipelago, about 65 kilometres from the Western Isles of Scotland. It is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep breeds. They have a history that evokes a romanticism back to the Bronze Age.
Soay sheep are fine-boned and with a short, thin tail. They are late to lamb, and will do so outside, rather than in a lambing shed. They are late maturing and the Ewes make excellent mums who demonstrate close bonds with their feeding lambs, until weaned. The texture of their wool can vary, from soft fine wool to more coarse hairy fibres (or “kemps”), and mixtures in-between. The fleece is, normally, shed naturally.
How did they arrive at the St. Kilda islands and when? No one really knows. But what we do know is that when owners talk of them they talk of intelligent, nimble animals with excellent mothering habits, always with quirky behavioural traits and lots of fun to watch. They are excellent conservation grazers, being content in woodland and on hillsides. The coloured fleece is sought after for many craft uses
2022 Lambs & mums: Bryony & Ginger 🙂
Passionate about people, wildlife, plants and our wonderful rare breed Soay Sheep; life ‘in the slow lane’ to an extent; but it’s a busy one!
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Soay are very different from usual sheep breeds, & the most primitive appearance of any British sheep breed. Each one is truly individual!
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