Other common names: St. Kilda Sheep
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 - A great choice for beginners.
We have been breeding Hebridean Sheep at Millfields Rare Breeds in Essex for a few years now and my love for Hebrideans grows and grows each year. Their characters, intelligence, sturdiness and mothering instincts are just a few of the many reasons why this hardy breed is so wonderful to work with. Not too long ago Hebridean Sheep were listed on the Rare Breed Survival Trusts’ Watch list as their numbers were dwindling but they have since become a real survival success story with many more breeders taking on these wonderful creatures!
For beginners thinking about starting a flock of sheep, Hebrideans are a wonderful choice as they are very easy to bucket train and their horns make catching and handling them much easier. They are also more resistant to fly strike, foot rot and many other ailments commonly seen in more commercial breeds. With patience and training they can become very friendly and trusting, which is handy when caring for them. Ours come running at a single call now and they are very fond of wholemeal bread or spring greens as a special treat. Catching a particular ewe to check her feet or remove a bramble etc., is achieved by simply rustling a carrier back with a few pieces of bread in it and grabbing the ewe by her horn. The ewes are also wonderful to work with at lambing time as they are very trusting and seem to really appreciate your help if a lamb is proving a little unwilling to be born. The Rams are also very friendly and gentle. Due to their natural breeding instincts the ram can stay with the flock throughout out the year and will only start breeding in late autumn when the temperature changes. They make wonderful Dads as well. Several of our rams have been seen pretending to be trampolines with a line of lambs taking it in turns to bounce off their backs. They frequently instigate racing games too! We do however tend to separate our Ram from the flock in October and re-introduce him on 5 November as this means we can plan the exact dates for lambing and it also works to prepare him both mentally and physically for breeding.
One thing I love about hebbys is their distinctively individual characters. Lilly, our matriarch is so funny and is very smart. She has always welcomed any newcomers to the flock and takes them under her wing until they are settled. She is a fantastic Mum and any ewe lambs she has are always guaranteed a place in our breeding flock as they inherit her wonderful temperament. Molly is quiet and reserved but is an obsessively attentive and protective Mum to her lambs. Libby is really cheeky and is always at the front of the bunch at treat time. She frequently jumps up onto you like a dog and will pinch bread right out of your hand. Beatie is the bruiser of the flock and keeps everyone in check. She is also a one ewe protection racket when any foxes or dogs come anywhere near the flock at lambing time. I have actually seen her chase a fox out of the paddock and then stand at the boundary bobbing her head at it as if to say “And don’t come back !!!.....” We didn’t see the fox for several weeks! They all have great personalities but I won’t bore you by describing them all. The ewes are also very well organised. Once the lambs get old enough to start playing together, the girls take turns doing playground duty with one ewe watching all the lambs, while the rest of them graze the spring grass to keep their milk production going. Georgia, one of the younger ewes, does playground duty more than anyone else as she still enjoys playing the many chasing games that lambs enjoy.
Hebridean sheep are self shearing breeds but we shear our flocks as soon as the hot weather arrives for several reasons; shearing enables us to collect complete fleeces rather than picking up bits of wool from all corners of their paddocks. More importantly, shearing is vital for the sheep’s welfare. 2011 was a notably bad year for Flystrike being very dry and warm and 2012 is promising to be the same. Flystrike is a particularly nasty affliction caused by certain flies laying their eggs in the sheep’s fleeces. The eggs then hatch and the resulting maggots can literally eat a sheep alive. By removing the fleece early and treating them with a defensive spray, the problem can be prevented. It’s also far more comfortable for the sheep and at lambing time, it is more hygienic for the lambs and a sheared ewe can share more of her body heat with her lambs when they cuddle up at night.
Rare breed wool is becoming very popular with hand spinners and a niche market is fast developing. Last year we sent fleeces all over the world including: UK, America, Switzerland, Hawaii, Sweden and Finland!
The meat is also delicious! It is incredibly lean, has a succulent buttery taste and boasts far lower cholesterol levels than most commercial lamb, so presents a delicious and healthy option!
For more information visit www.rarebreedsessex.co.uk
From Andrea Hale Millfields Mar 5 2012 7:23AM