Have Ewe Any Wool?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Sheep of the NY Sheep and Wool Festival

This post is dedicated to the sheep of the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. The featured breed this year was the American Oxford (right).

I learned some interesting "sheepie" and alpaca facts as I wandered the fairgrounds early Sunday morning. I also learned that Alpaca come in 22 different natural colors. That's quite a color palette! Check your knowledge of sheep and wool against these "woolly" facts...be sure to click on the photos for a more "readable" view!

During my wanderings, I checked out the sheep breeds booth and discovered a very new breed as well as some great examples of familiar breeds. I also learned that for some breeds, the sheep cannot actually be imported...only the semen and it takes a few breeding generations to produce the 96% purity that's required to establish the breed. The word "American" now must precede the name of the breed. Who knew?

One breed that's in the process of being established here is the Quessant Sheep. These sheep originated on the Island of Quessant off the shores of France near Brittany. These sheep are very small and are supposedly the smallest breed. According to the information sheet at the booth, the rams are only 18-20 inches in height and weigh only 33-48 lbs. The ewes are even smaller - 17-18 inches in height and only 28-35 lbs. - talk about tiny! That's approximately 1/5 the size of the average sheep or 1/10 the size of the largest breed (again, according to the information sheet on the breed).

The Quessant is being introduced into the US by a process called upbreeding - taking the semen of a Quessant and inseminating a Shetland ewe. Over time, this will produce the new breed. The first generation of these sheep was born in April 2009 and are 50% Quessant and 50% Shetland. The upbreeding process will continue with the lambs inseminated with Quessant semen to produce 75% Quessant and 25% Shetland. The process will continue until it reaches nearly 100%...establishing this breed here in the US.

On to the breeds...

Border Leicester (left) and Coopworth (right)

Gotland (left) and Baby Doll (right)

Cotswald (left) and Horned Dorset (right)

Wensleydale (left) and American Soay (right)

Leicester Longwool (left) and Black Welsh Mountain (right)

Jacob (left) and American Miniature Cheviot (right)

Introducing, the American Teeswater...

The American Teeswater is a new breed of sheep that's currently in the process of being recognized. This sheep was introduced through the upbreeding process mentioned above. At approximately "96% Teeswater", it's now considered a breed. The UK Teeswater semen was used for the upbreeding process. This breed is a cousin to the Wensleydale. Again, the word American precedes the breed name because neither the sheep nor embryos are permitted out of the UK...thus making this an American breed.

I find it absolutely amazing that a single type of animal, like the sheep, can come in so many different shapes and sizes. Every face is special and unique....it just amazing. I just love these cuddly creatures! I wish I could take them all home with me!

Of course, with all the sheep around, we tend to forget that the Alpacas also provide some wonderful soft wool to keep us warm! Don't forget...these elegant animals come in 22 different colors! I'm still amazed at the variety of natural colors! The perfect backdrop to the festival and all the animals is the stunning fall view that surrounds me - click on the photo for a closer view.


  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger sue said…

    This was so interesting!! Thanks for the great info on the different sheep!


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