Shetland Sheep Around the Globe.

The first I had ever heard about Shetland sheep traveling out-with our islands was when P.B.A.Hunter, ‘ Benjie’ as he was known locally shipped a consignment of Shetland sheep to North America / Canada, which I have featured in previous posts.  While writing my blogs on my journey with Shetland sheep and their wool I have been very fortunate to have been supplied with information, from Hazel Syme of the Shetland Sheep Society but mostly from ‘ Benjie’s records on how Shetland sheep travelled further afield and also subsequently played a part in the development of other native breeds.

IMAGE FOUNDING FATHER {COURTESY SHETLAND SHEEP SOCIETY}

Founding Father (Courtesy Shetland Sheep Society)

I would always have liked to travel to the U.S. and Canada and would have liked to have seen the Benjie Shetland sheep descendants in their native lands. However I have had the good fortune of contacting Garrett Ramsay an avid breeder of native Shetland sheep who farms near Winslow Illinois and he has sent some me images of his Shetland rams. They look very impressive indeed and the images of their wool are of a very high quality, I am sure they would have met with Benjie’s approval. I would like to thank Garrett for the use of his photographs they are most appreciated.

IMAGE GARRETT SHETLAND RAM

Garrett Shetland ram
Garrett Shetland Ram 2
Garrett Shetland Ram 3
Garrett Shetland White Ram
Garrett Grey Fleece

Castlemilk Moorit

.In January 2019 I was approached by a group of Castlemilk owners and enthusiasts who are conducting research on the origins of the Castlemilk Moorit sheep since its development at the beginning of the 20th century at Castlemilk Estates near Lockerbie. They had discovered in their investigation correspondence between the Castlemilk Estate and a Mr John Smith Cattle Dealer Scalloway in 1929. They asked if this was in fact the same John Smith of Jamieson & Smith and if so could I supply any further information.  Unfortunately we did not find out any more details at this end, however the society provided me with copies of letters dated 12th March 1929 which showed a business transaction between my old boss John ‘Sheepie’ Smith and the estate had taken place in 1928c for the sale of “Shetland Mourat Sheep” sent to Castlemilk. I have now received information from the Castlemilk Moorit Sheep society that says Sir John Buchanan-Jardine bought 14 brown ewe lambs in 1928, and a further shipment in 1930, this time mature Moorit ewes from Scalloway. I think it is important to know that Shetland sheep supplied by Berry Farm had perhaps played a small part in the development of the Castlemilk Moorit.

Sheepie with Moorit Ram
Castlemilk Moorit (Courtesy Andrew Harwood)

There were perhaps earlier instances of Shetland sheep leaving our islands and being part of other sheep breed development, perhaps to be found in our archives; however this is the earliest contact that has come to my attention. Of course other breeds were brought into our islands in the early 1900s which no doubt influenced dedicated Shetland sheep breeders to form the Shetland Flock Book Society. I recall one renowned Shetland sheep and cattle breeder tell me that sometime in the 1920s two Siberian moorit rams were introduced to a farm in our islands, he said they would gather the ewes in a similar fashion to that of a stag rounding up its hinds.

Siberian Ram (Courtesy Shetland Sheep Society)

 Manx Loghtan.

In 2017 on a visit to the Isle of Man I was to discover the sheep breed the Manx Loghtan and first hand see the similarities between the two breeds which I describe in my past blog Isle of Man. I was presented with a moorit Loghtan fleece by the spinners’ guild and struggled to tell the difference between the two breeds from a wool point. The rams appear much larger than our native Shetland and have four horns which usually only have two. The Shetland, Castlemilk and Soay according to the Manx Loghtan story play an important part in the revival of the island breed.

Manx Loghtan Flock
Soay Sheep Lochend

While researching the first Shetland sheep to North America I talked to one of Shetland’s farmers and possibly the main local dealer in Shetland livestock. He informed me that in the 1950s his late father shipped Shetland sheep to our neighbouring islands to the north the Faroe Islands; perhaps this was to help improve their wool quality?

Faroe Islands

Shetland sheep and their owners have played an important part in telling the story of our distinctive native Shetland breeds highlighting special characteristics such as its exceptional fine wool which sets it apart from other breeds of sheep. The skill and knowledge of the Shetland sheep man was first recognised and recorded in a royal command no less in 1298 in the rettarboetr of the noble lord King Hakon. It was a detailed four page document sent to the people of the Faroe Islands which seemed to suggest they needed help with their sheep husbandry. This information was passed on to me by my late friend Jeemie Moncrief from the Shetland Amenity Trust.

Norwegian Sheep

“ Hakon, by the grace of God, Duke of Norway, son of King Magnus the Crowned, sends God’s greetings and his own to all the men in the Faroes who see or hear this document. Our spiritual father and dearest friend, Erlendr, bishop of the Faroes, and Siguror law-man from Shetland, whom we have sent to you, pointed out to us on behalf of the inhabitants of these things which seemed to be deficient in agricultural law”.

The document aimed at the Faroese sheep sector sets out in great detail how the sheep producers of the Faroes Islands can improve their animal husbandry. This attention to care of our Shetland island sheep flocks is on- going and acknowledged at present with Shetland having no sheep disease and is accredited with the highest status by agricultural officials.

Shetland Colours Clousta

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