Hebridean

The fleeces from the Hebridean sheep usually weigh between 1½ – 2 ½ kg and range from black to dark brown; fleece tips may become brown through sun bleaching. Lambs are born black but the fleeces on many yearlings become quite brown before their first shearing and some may then go grey with age, particularly on the flanks and hindquarters. These characteristics make it a popular fleece for hand spinners with a staple length of 5-15cm and a Bradford Count of 48 – 50. The yarn is ideal for outerwear but can also be fine enough for wearing closer to the skin.

Geography

Hebridean sheep are members of the Northern European short-tailed group and the Celtic peoples of the west of the British Isles always had a liking for black domestic animals. Not just cosmetically but because black horned feet are generally harder, grow more slowly and are more resistant to rot so therefore particularly suitable for the boggy, peaty conditions found over large parts of the west of Britain.

Characteristics

The ewes generally weigh less than 40kg (88lb) and the rams proportionately larger. Both sexes are normally horned, usually with one pair but often with two or even more pairs and occasionally with none.

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Fleece Statistics
Unit Value
Bradford Count 48-50
Micron Range 35+
Staple Length 5-15cm
Fleece Weight 1.5-2.5kg

In 1973 the Rare Breeds Survival Trust identified Hebridean sheep as a breed in danger of extinction. Only a few parkland flocks remained and none left 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.

The Hebridean is once again finding a role in modern agriculture where extensification provides the only viable option in harsher regions and for environmental land management. Their hardiness and ability to thrive on rough grazing have ensured their success as conservation grazing animals to maintain natural grassland or heathland habitats. They are particularly effective at scrub control, having a strong preference for browsing. Most of the Hebridean fleece used here at Garthenor is sourced from wildlife trusts in the UK.

The Hebridean Sheep Society exists to preserve and promote Hebridean sheep as a distinctive and economically viable breed with qualities of importance to today’s livestock industry and many types of ecological management tasks. The Society is also the registration authority for the breed within the UK and is affiliated to the National Sheep Association.

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Page

Hebridean Sheep Michael Palmer Wikimedia
Hebridean Sheep Flock Tim Green Gwent Wildlife Trust
Hebridean Sheep Jim Champion Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Joe Parilla Flickr

Gallery

Hebridean Sheep Flock David Wright Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Flock Tony Hammond Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Willie Angus Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Flock Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Flock Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Flock Chris Goddard, 2011 webrarian.co.uk
Hebridean Sheep Chris Goddard, 2011 webrarian.co.uk
Hebridean Sheep Mike Vallender Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Jim Champion Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Flock David Wright Flickr
Hebridean Sheep Flock in the Snow Tim Green Gwent Wildlife Trust

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All images are reproduced here by kind permission of their original owners or under a Creative Commons licence where applicable. You may not reproduce any images without prior consent.

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