Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder)
Posted Jan 16, 2015
I bought Henrietta as one of a small group of sheep that served as my starter flock. She was about five years old and came bred for March lambing. She was my first purebred Cheviot ewe; the rest of the group were Cheviot crosses.
I have worked with Cheviots on several farms, which is why I wanted this breed. In addition to Henrietta, I purchased several other purebred Cheviot ewes to speed up the growth of my flock. I quickly discovered that, while this breed has many desirable qualities - specifically they are hardy, lamb easily on their own, often produce twins, do well on a strictly grass/hay diet and have a good carcass size for meat production - the Cheviot is not the sheep for me.
My main issue with Cheviots is how flighty they are. I actually initially wanted them in part for this reason. I use working sheepdogs to manage my sheep and need breeds that won't become 'dogged' (i.e. that won't lose their fear of the dog and stop moving away from them). I also prefer sheep who are somewhat fearful of people because otherwise they can end up knocking you down when they run to you to get away from the dog. If you've ever been hit by a sheep, you'll know that this is not a particularly enjoyable experience. Not to mention dangerous to the integrity of your knees and ankles.
The Cheviot, however, I've found to be too flighty for my taste. They are very good for working with my trained dogs, but find them very challenging to actually train young dogs with. I have one Cheviot in particular who will leap tall fences in a single bound, as if they weren't even there, when she spots a dog coming. And once she jumps the fence the rest realize how brilliant an idea that is and follow suit. Within seconds I can find myself standing in an empty field, accompanied only by my dog.
Even worse than fence jumping, those not nimble enough to make it over will run headlong into the fence in hopes of knocking it down. This can lead to fence damage, and even to injury or death in the sheep (although fortunately I've never had this happen on my farm).
Henrietta, however, is nothing like what I have described above. Despite her genetics, she is my most calm and laid back ewe in the flock. This actually causes me problems at the opposite end of the spectrum. Trying to get her to move anywhere is a challenge. Even with a dog. She gives my border collies a dirty look, yawns, and goes back to grazing. But she is definitely the exception to the rule, at least in my experience.