Shetland sheep

As already mentioned in the introduction, the sheep were imported in 2008 from the excellent and very nice breeder Betty Stikkers who comes from a small Dutch town Oijen. The whole organization of visit, sheep selection and transfer we made together with our friends Daniela and Betty, of course :-).
By the way, Daniela is also very skilful and she is able to produce from wool almost everything, have a look ...

The base of our flock are ram Conor (Sweet line), ram Borivoj (Shedow line) together with 9-12 breeding ewes. To enhance wool production we breed 4 wethers (they have twice wool volume).
Of course, the flock is usually bigger about lambs and it usually has more than 20 animals.
The stud is in a performance monitoring(the testing, heridity monitoring and breed value estimation).

The History of the Breed

source: http://www.shetland-sheep.org.uk (UK Shetland Sheep Society)

There is archaeological evidence that primitive sheep of the Soay type were kept in Britain by early Neolithic farmers over 4500 years ago. Horns of the Soay type were found during the excavation of Jarlshof, a noted prehistoric site on Shetland. The current Shetland gulmoget has Soay or Mouflon markings suggesting that these early sheep contributed to their genetic makeup.

Norwegians settled in Scotland and the Northern Isles around 500 AD. It is likely that they brought their own sheep to add to the Soay types and other sheep already there. Shetland sheep share many similarities with the Spaelsau and Vilsau sheep of south western Norway. There are wild sheep on the small islands off Bergen which resemble the double coated and patterned Shetlands of Foula, an inhabited island off the west coast of mainland Shetland.

Around 1200 AD the original short-tailed sheep were still present in the Northern Isles though crossing with the Roman sheep was producing distinct varieties. In the ensuing years these Northern Short-tailed sheep continued to develop into distinct breeds in isolated locations. People on Shetland may have been selecting, either directly or indirectly, for soft and fine wool from very early on in this period.

Early in the seventeenth century stockings were hand-knitted from hand-spun wool on Shetland for trade to the Dutch and English. However, in 1786 sheep scab, introduced through cross breeding experiments, devastated flocks throughout Scotland, including Shetland, reducing the amount of high quality wool available for the knitting industry. At the same time meat breeds of sheep with coarser wool were moving northward through Scotland and into the Northern Isles. Crossbreeding and changes in husbandry motivated by meat production had a negative impact on the quality of much of the wool produced.

For the next hundred years or so the Shetland wool industry waxed and waned in response to political and market forces but basically maintained its reputation for superior quality wool and lace work.

By the early 1900s, markets for lace work were disappearing but hand knitted garments were increasing in popularity. Knitters throughout Shetland adapted again to produce the richly patterned Fair Isle sweaters, hats and mittens. This industry was itself soon perceived to be threatened by a reduction in wool quality caused by cross breeding to improve carcase quality and so, in order to preserve the uniqueness of the Shetland breed, in 1927 the Shetland Flock Book Society was formed on Shetland. A Breed Description was drawn up and is still in use. The Shetland Flock Book Trust administers the sheep's welfare for island residents to this day.

In 1977 The Rare Breed Survival Trust classified Shetland Sheep as Category 3 (Endangered). However, by 1985, the popularity of the breed on the mainland, particularly with smallholders interested in the range of colours and the fineness of the wool, was such that they were re-classified as Category 5 (Above Numerical Guidelines). In the 1990s the classification of the breed was revised to a Minority Breed. In 2002 Shetland sheep were removed from the RBST list of supported breeds.

At the present day the breed on the UK mainland is in a healthy state both numerically and in terms of quality and conformation to the Breed Standard. In 2008 1031 lambs were registered by 149 breeders from 822 ewes and 228 rams. 36 new rams were approved by the society inspectors. Majority colours were Black, moorit, grey and white, Katmoget being the most common marking. Some colours and patterns are still rarely encountered and work is underway to identify and conserve these.

More info can be found at: http://www.shetland-sheep.org.uk (UK Shetland Sheep Society)