There are many sites on the web with great information on Shetland sheep, and I have no desire to recreate it here. Instead I will, give a brief history and concentrate on why they appeal to me and what I’ve learned about the little sheep thus far.
The Shetland Sheep are a small, hardy breed that belongs to the Northern European short tail group of sheep. The group also includes the Icelandic, Gotland, Soay, and Finnsheep to name just a few. Named for the Scottish Island that the breed hails from, the sheep were brought there by the Norwegians (Vikings) and may have cross bred with the native species. They adapted to the harsh, rugged climate and have existed on Shetland for 1000 years. They are an unimproved breed, prized for their soft, lightweight wool with its characteristic long, crimped staples. Shetland's boast eleven main colour groups and more than thirty colour patterns.
Thirty years ago the breed was considered threatened and conservation efforts to save the Shetland breed were undertaken on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1980 the first Shetlands were imported to Canada. With the help from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Col. Dailley , who owned a animal Safari in Cambridge, Ontario imported 28
ewes and 4 rams from the Shetland Islands. This is the base for all Shetland flocks in North America today. Later in 1986 Shetlands were exported to the United States from Canada. At this time these old North American lines are what I am interested in.
In early 2010 I finally purchased my first ewes from Tamihu Farms in Barriere BC. Later that year I added two Old English Babydoll wethers from Periwinkle to keep the girls company and help them with the yard work. I was contented with my little wool factory for the time being, but not for long. I contacted Linda Wendelboe at Fibre Works Farm in Alberta, and after much deliberation chose a young ram to assist in the next stage of the farms growth. Please see the sales page for available lambs.
The Shetlands are a lively, sweet natured sheep with distinct personalities. They are quiet and hardy and easy to handle. My flock is housed in a barn with concrete foundation and floor mats. I do not let them out in severe weather. A far cry from their ancestral beginnings.
North American Shetland Sheep Association (NASSA) www.shetland-sheep.org