Hebridean Sheep

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Other common names: St. Kilda Sheep

The basics:
Hebridean Sheep are one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep breeds, and are believed to have descended from Scottish Dunface Sheep. In the late 1800's, black Dunface were selected from flocks in the Uist Islands, and these sheep eventually formed the Hebridean Sheep breed.

According to the Hebridean Sheep Society, "By the end of the nineteenth century, flocks of Hebridean Sheep (often romantically referred to by their owners as "St. Kilda Sheep") had begun to appear in the parklands of large country estates both in Scotland and in England. Had it not been for the existence of these parkland flocks, the breed would not have survived into the mid-twentieth century. In 1973 the Rare Breeds Survival Trust identified Hebridean sheep as a breed in danger of extinction. Only a few parkland flocks remained and there were no sheep discovered in their homelands of the west of Scotland. Fortunately, these parkland flocks had been virtually feral, with little if any management, and so the characteristics of the sheep had probably changed very little since their arrival."

Appearance / health:
According to Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep, "Hebridean sheep were originally predominently a four-horned breed. Over the years, two-horned sheep have come to dominate the breed to the extent that about 95% are now two-horned. Four-horned sheep display a wide range of horn styles and a great variety of types of fleece, rather moreso than two-horned sheep. Only four-horned sheep have topknots. Topknots are so rare now that there are probably less than a dozen registered topknot sheep in existence."

Modern Hebrideans have black, rather coarse wool, which fades to brown in the sun and often becomes grey with age; there is no wool on the face or legs. If not shorn the wool may moult naturally in spring. Both the rams and the ewes are normally horned, usually with one pair of horns, but often with two or even more pairs, and occasionally with none. They are considerably smaller than most other breeds of sheep, fully grown ewes weighing only around 40 kg (88 lb), and rams slightly heavier, at around 50 to 60 kg (110 to 130 lb). It has been reported that the muscle tissue and fats of the Hebridean have significantly less cholesterol than other well known breeds.

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:
Hebrideans 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.


succulent buttery taste, hardy primitive breed, excellent breed society, Excellent quality meat


Rare Breed Survival, survival success story

Hebridean Sheep Health Tip

Hebridean Sheep

From Andrea Hale Millfields Mar 5 2012 7:23AM


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