All our sheep are docile and easy to handle. We feel a sheep's temperament is more a function of management than a breed. We check the sheep three times each day. Somewhere during each day, each sheep gets some personal attention. Also, we handle them a lot as lambs. Yes, this takes a great deal of time but we enjoy what we do. Weighing, trimming, hooves, shearing, rotating to other pastures becomes fun instead of an ordeal!
|Linda and Tuthill Doane|
Today they are considered a primitive or"unimproved" breed. This means that although they are small and relatively slow-growing, they maintain natural hardiness, thriftiness, easy lambing, adaptability and longevity. Shetlands survived for centuries under harsh conditions and on a meager diet, although they do very well under less rigorous conditions. Having retained most of their primitive survival instincts, they are easier to care for than many of today's "improved" breeds.
Shetlands are one of the smallest of the Britishsheep. Rams usually weigh 90 to 125 pounds and ewes about 75 to 100 pounds. Rams usually have beautiful spiral horns whereas the ewes are typically polled. They are fine-boned and agile and their naturally short, fluke shaped tails do not require docking.
They are a calm, docile and easy-to-manage breed. Most respond well to attention and some even wag their tails when petted! In addition, the rams are usually safe to be around.
Classified as endangered by the Rare BreedsSurvival Trust (RBST) in 1977, Shetlands are now enjoying renewed favor and numbers.
Tut and Linda Doane of Vermont brought the first Shetlands into the U.S. from the Dailley flock when the 5-year-old offspring of the original imports were finally released from quarantine in 1986. Currently, only about three thousand Shetlands exist in all of North America.
This soft, yet strong and durable wool is a delight to spin and is ideal for knitting. It was traditionally used in Shetland shawls so fine they could be drawn through a wedding ring!
Fleeces usually weigh between 2 to 4 pounds and have a staple length of 2 to 4.5 inches. Occasionally, the wool will shed in late spring as it did generations ago when it was "rooed" or plucked off by hand.
Shetland wool comes in one of the widest ranges of colors of any breed. Besides the white, which dyes very well, other colors include light grey, grey, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), shaela (dark steely-grey resembling black frost), musket (pale greyish-brown), fawn, moorit (shades between fawn and dark reddish-brown), mioget (light moorit), dark brown and pure black. There are these 11 main colors as well as 30 markings, many still bearing their Shetland dialect names.
Unfortunately, many of these colors and markings have become quite rare as white wool is dominant and has historically commanded better prices.
The Shetland Wool Brokers also have some great information and pictures about Shetland sheep and wool.