Friday, May 11, 2012

Ram photos from Shetland

Elizabeth Johnston was out earlier this week taking photos of sheep.  It's always a treat to see the sheep that form the beginning of the Fair Isle knitting experience.

It's lambing time in Shetland and the rams have been separated from the rest of the sheep. They have formed their own little flock. Here are some of the photos Elizabeth sent me and a few of her comments:

"It was a really windy day when I got them all in the same place to take a photo so I sat in the car and zoomed the camera. I was blown all over the place if I got outside."    

"I love the photo of the one with the black eyes. He looks as if he has a good fleece."

"The black ram - the old style one - has a real rough fleece but good for rug wool. I wouldn't want to go in to the park with him either. His temperament is probably as bad as his fleece. His face is beautiful though and those horns..."
Because I raise Shetlands here in the US, I'm always interested in how a real Shetlander defines terms like 'old style' in relation to the fleece description.  Here is what Elizabeth had to say:

"OK, old style, I probably mean real primitive, unaltered. Those huge horns, and it is a small animal, if you saw it next to those other rams, he is visibly smaller. The size is small, but mostly it is the fleece. That white front is long and hairy, similar to the strip down the middle of the back. The fleece has an outer guard hair. The fleece might have some soft wool but most of it will be rough. This type of fleece would be used for outer wear, not to wear near the skin. The garment will be quite waterproof and will probably not felt and so not shrink. And temperament is as rough as the fleece. They can be real nasty to work with...He is gorgeous, but his fleece is fairly useless for us nowadays."

The last photo in the group got me really excited.  It turns out that one to the rams in the group Elizabeth was photographing had four horns!  I've never seen any four horned Shetlands in the US, but do know that they exist.  Here is the photo and her comments about this rare style of ram:

"They are rare, but when one arrives sometimes they are kept, just because they have arrived. I don't think anyone is breeding for them. And in fact I don't think they produce 4 horned lambs. I did say to Oliver at the Wool Brokers that I had seen one and he could name about 6 or 7 others he knew of lately. They don't have a particular type of fleece.
They are not really an animal that you want. The rams need a strong skull for rutting and these do not have strong skulls. The weight of the 4 horns can pull at the skull joins and they are prone to fractured skulls."

When the rain stops, Elizabeth has promised to go out and photograph some of the new colored Shetland lambs.  I can't wait!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Wendy - those photos are just amazing! And the horns on that HST ram - Holy Cow! I enjoyed reading the stories. T.