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.