Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder),
Bred animal myself
Essex, United Kingdom
Posted Mar 05, 2012
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.