Cheviot Hills, Scottish Borders
Trend of population size
Flock book established
Origin – history
The Shetland breed
originated in the Shetland Islands, but it's roots go back over a
thousand years, probably to sheep brought to the Shetland Islands by
Viking settlers. They belong to the Northern European short-tailed
group which also contains the Finnsheep, Norwegian Spaelsau,
Icelandics, Romanovs and others. Shetlands are classed as a landrace
or "unimproved" breed.
The Shetland breed
has a high score for geographical isolation due to the high health
status of the breed in its native environment. Imported sheep
undergo strict health checks for a number of diseases including
Caseous Lymphadenitis, Maedi Visna and parasites and a period of
quarantine before mixing with Island sheep.
The Shetland is a primitive, unimproved breed noted for its natural
hardiness, lambing ease, longevity, and ability to survive under
harsh conditions. It is the smallest of the British breeds and
retains many of the characteristics of wild sheep. Rams weigh 45 Kg
and ewes about 35 Kg. Rams usually have spiral horns, whereas the
ewes are typically polled. They are fine-boned and their naturally
short, fluke-shaped tails do not require docking.
Shetlands are known primarily for their production of colourful wool
upon which the Shetland woollen industry is based. They come in one
of the widest ranges of colours of any breed. There are 11 main
colours as well as 30 markings, many still bearing their Shetland
dialect names. It was this variety which was so commercially
important to the wool industry of the Shetland Isles where natural
wools are often used undyed. The Isles are best for their multi-coloured
knitwear and for the traditional crocheted shawls which are so fine
they will pass through a wedding ring.
Shetlands naturally shed their wool during late spring/early summer.
Fleeces usually weigh between1-1 1/2 kg. Traditionally the Shetland
has served as a dual-purpose breed for production of prime hill-bred
wether mutton and a quality lamb carcass as well as the renowned
Purebred Shetland meat is highly regarded on taste, but is slow to
mature and wethers are often run through to shearlings. In more
recent times the Shetland ewe has become increasingly used for cross-bred
lamb production, commonly for the recognised Shetland-Cheviot
halfbred, or for further cross-breeding, providing.
Both groups are based on the breed standard set in the 1920s.
There are no
individual breed improvement initiatives, but the breed society is
working with the British Wool Marketing Board to provide special
grades, though there are difficulties in sourcing a sufficient
supply. The society operates a collecting and marketing scheme,
working on exporting to Japan and the United States of America,
which is proving difficult due to regulatory restrictions.
The Island also has a marketing scheme to promote Shetland Lamb
including Seaweed Lamb from sheep that eat seaweed on the coast.
Also, as part of the Scottish Fine Wool project, recently Shetland
ewes have been put to Est a Laine Merino rams in the hope of
producing a heavier fine wool fleece for greater income.
of semen and blood, NSP storage, 17.824 doses
The breed society for the Shetland Islands is the Shetland Flock
James P Nicolson Lonabrek, Aith, Bixter, Shetland, ZE2 9ND
Telephone: 01595 810343
The Shetland Sheep Society is the Breed Society for Shetland Sheep
bred on the mainland