We've got more than a few sheep up in the Highlands!

Here you see Dotty. The noisiest Loch Ness Monster.
Dotty the Sheep!
We have some video footage of these wee beasties!

Jacob: Brown and white patched fleece. Usually horned in both sexes, with two or four horns. The origin of the Jacob or Spanish sheep is not known with any certainty. One theory is that they have originally come from Mesopotamia as they are related to the fat-tailed sheep of the Middle East.

The first stock of this breed was imported to this country come from Cape Colony where it had been established by Spanish and Portuguese settlers. Jacob SheepThe fleece colour of the dark patches at birth is very dark brown but this becomes gradually a lighter colour. Some sheep can be quite dark, whereas others can be almost white with light spotting.

The wool is much in demand as knitting wool and attractively patterned materials may be made solely by using undyed and unbleached wool of different natural colours.

Herdwick: Grey face with arched nose and white ears. Legs and feet covered with short, thick hair. Lambs are born with almost black wool which turns lighter as they grow older. Rams have creamy white horns which often curve majestically.

This breed of sheep is believed to originate from Scandinavia. It lives entirely on the mountain terrain and survives in any weather without any supplementary feeding. Hannibal - a big HerdwickThe most remarkable characteristic of these sheep is their instinct to stay close to the spot where they were born. The fleece is coarse and kempy. The undyed wool is used widely as attractive woven products like rugs or carpets. Lately Herdwick wool has also been developed for knitwear.

Typical types found in the Highlands and Islands

Blackface: This breed is numerically one of the most common in Scotland and also in the U.K.

Black face with white markings. White coat. Black markings on legs and feet. Fleece which originally was short and coarse is today longish and coarse. Blackface's wool is very suitable for rugs and carpets. Both sexes can have horns.

Some quite magnificently curved. Long, well curved horns are often used to make shepperd's sticks more decorative.

North Country: White, large face. Thick, white coat. Cheviot Their wool varies from fairly coarse to quite fine and is used for a range of clothing.

Shetland: Small bodied with erect ears and bright eyes. Colour varies. Rams have nicely rounded horns.
This sheep is the smallest of the British breeds and is believed to be of Scandinavian origin. It retains many of the characteristics of wild sheep. Shetland sheep produce several shades of wool; including white, moorit (moor red), skiela (brown grey), fawn, grey and brown. This unusual feature is commercially important to the wool industry of the Islands where the natural wools are often used undyed - a significant characteristic of the famous, high quality Shetland knitwear and the softly coloured tweeds. The white wool is specially known for its fineness and unusual softness. The production of Shetland wool is fairly small and consequently most of it is used by the Shetland Islanders in their tweeds, machine- and hand knitwear, including sweaters, shawls, stockings, gloves etc.

Many small islands in Britain have played an important part in preserving some ancestral populations of sheep. In particular, the Orkney and Shetland islands have retained the type of sheep once kept throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by the many thousands of crofters. After the battle of Culloden 1746, when the army of King George II vanquished the Jacobite rebels, the depopulation of the Highlands began and their sheep began to dissappear. Only on the islands of the extreme north did the crofter's breed survive.

On the fertile Orkney island of North Ronaldsay the crofters specialised in growing crops. They built a wall all round the island and put the sheep on the beach, away from the crops. Here the sheep were forced to adopt to a diet of seaweed or kelp. The result is a unique, small, horned breed, which produces meat and a small amount of wool. The fleece has a fine undercoat and a coarse, hairy overcoat and comes in all colours.

Back to the Homepage