Manx Loaghtan fleeces, weighing 1 1/2 – 2kg are short stapled at 7-10cm and much sought after, being soft, close textured and lustrous; ideal for hand spinning and felting with a Bradford Count of 46 – 54. The wool is moorit (red-brown) and breeds true for this colour. Once knitted it is fine enough to be worn close to the skin and yet hard wearing enough to be used for outerwear.
Manx Loaghtans are small, agile, fine boned sheep with adult ewes weighing about 40kg. Both sexes are multi-horned (although occasionally polled animals occur) having 2, 4 or occasionally 6 horns with the ram’s growing larger and stronger to give an impressive appearance. During the past century the Manx Loaghtan’s colour has stabilised as Moorit, that is, shades between fawn and a dark reddish brown, although originally, the breed were also found in white, grey and black but garments made from the brown wool was highly prized and so the sheep were selected for this. The word Loaghtan is thought to have derived from two Manx words describing the colour, lugh (mouse) and dhoan (brown) or from Lhost dhoan (burnt brown). The lambs are born almost black but lighten to the usual moorit from about 2 weeks old onwards.
The Manx Loaghtan is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep breeds and descends from the primitive sheep once found throughout Scotland, the Hebrides and Shetland Isles. Up until the 18th century these sheep covered the Manx hills in their thousands but in the last 100 years or so the breed came close to extinction. In the 1950s numbers were down to less than 100 but have been saved by the dedication of a number of breeders and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and their numbers are now back up to over one thousand but still remain one of the rarest breeds in the British Isles.
There have been several spellings for Loaghtan through the years although now, in the UK there is a move to call them by their proper Manx name, Loaghtan. The Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders Group works to promote this primitive rare breed of sheep.
All images remain the property and copyright of their original owners.
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.