Other common names: Boreray Blackface Sheep; Hebridean Blackface Sheep
The Boreray Sheep is a breed which is native to the remote St Kilda archipelago off the west coast of Scotland, and which has survived as a feral animal on one of the Boreray Island. The Boreray Sheep is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group of breeds.
The Boreray is the only sheep breed to be listed in "Category 1: Critical" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, because fewer than 300 Borerays are known to exist. In the 1970's a small flock of 6 Boreray Sheep were exported to the mainland in an attempt to increase the population of the breed, but the majority of Borerays still remain on Boreray island.
Appearance / health:
Despite being partially derived from a long-tailed breed (the Scottish Blackface), Borerays display characteristics which group them with other northern European short-tailed sheep. They are amongst the smallest sheep in the British Isles, with mature ewes weighing 28 kg (62 lb) and standing 55 cm (22 in) at the withers. They have naturally short tails, which do not require docking. They also moult their fleece naturally, rather than having to be sheared annually. Fleeces are grey or creamy white on the body, though darker individuals occur. Rough in quality, the wool is mostly used in the creation of tweeds or carpet yarns. The face, legs, and neck are often black. Faces and legs are wool-free. Both sexes of the Boreray display horns, although two pairs are no longer found. The especially large, spiral horns of the rams may be used for shepherd's-crook-making or other crafts.
Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats. It is one of several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which are related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease") and chronic wasting disease of deer.
Housing / diet:
Boreray Sheep are hardy and able to thrive on rough grazing, and so are often used as conservation grazing animals to maintain natural grassland or heathland habitats. They are particularly effective at scrub control, having a strong preference for browsing.
white mottled faces, hardy sheep
accomplished escape artis
St Kilda archipelago, strong survival instincts, Old Scottish Shortwool, Rare Breeds Survival Trust
The Boreray breed of sheep is frighteningly listed as "Critically endangered" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, because less than 300 Borerays are known to exist in the world!. The conservation of this breed is vital and Millfields are proud to be committed to helping this wonderful breed survive.
The breed originated on the islands of St Kilda off the west coast of Scotland. These incredibly hardy sheep survived as feral animals on the islands of Boreray - hence its name. Also known as the Boreray Blackface or Hebridean Blackface, they share many of the characteristics of hebridean sheep, apart from the colour. While all Hebrideans are black, Boreray are mainly creamy white with black and white mottled faces.
Up until the end of the eighteenth century, the sheep from the Scottish Islands were called the Scottish Dunface or Old Scottish Shortwool and were similar to the sheep kept up to the Iron Age. A variety of the Dunface lived on the St Kilda islands of Boreray and Hirta and were described as being: small, with short, coarse wool, and either 2 or sometimes 4 horns.
When the St Kilda archipelago's human inhabitants were evacuated along with the sheep of Hirta, in 1930, the sheep on Boreray were left to become feral. These sheep became some of the few surviving descendants of the Dunface. In the 70s a small flock of 6 were exported to the mainland to begin to increase the population of the breed, but the majority of Borerays still remain on the island.
Borerays are amongst the smallest sheep in the British Isles, with adult ewes weighing only 28 kg and standing at a height of only 55 cm. They have short tails and moult their fleeces naturally. Fleeces are soft but extremely hard wearing. Because of their feral existence, Boreray have developed strong survival instincts and can be extremely flighty. They tend to stay close together as a flock and can be tricky to handle. At lambing time they cope well on their own and are better left alone unless assistance is absolutely necessary. Apart from spraying the lamb’s navel, we don’t tend to handle them much at all in the first few weeks of their lives in order to ensure a strong bond with their Mums and to cause their Mums the minimal stress possible. Once the lambs are older however, we try to handle them as much as possible to increase their trust in us and to make handling far easier.
When handling is required for worming, vaccinations, foot trimming or shearing etc, we have found the best thing to do is run the Boreray down a race made of hurdles and into a small collection pen – the smaller the better. One of our ewe’s Twix can jump a 5 foot fence without even trying and is an accomplished escape artist. It is only when she is penned in with the rest of the flock that we are able to catch her when necessary. Boreray, like most sheep, can be bucket trained which helps a great deal when trying to catch them.
From Andrea Hale Millfields Mar 5 2012 7:58AM