Real Shetland Sheep

When we took our UK trip last year, we had driven for days seeing UK sheep of many breeds.  When we finally made it to the Shetland Islands, I was struck how the sheep there looked just like my sheep back home.  It was a comfort to me to see all these familiar looking sheep.

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Now there is an ugly debate going on now in the North American Shetland Sheep Association, and it involves the definition of a Shetland Sheep here in North America.   I have already said my piece, that if these changes are allowed to continue that I will not be a member of this organization any longer.  I have also written to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy about my concerns.  As the fifth longest member in Washington State I do feel I know about Shetland Sheep and have researched the historical documents originating from the Shetland Islands.  I am quite dismayed that newer members here are choosing to limit the breed here, especially at a time when the sheep on the Shetland Islands are again being threatened, this time by a misguided UK scrapie prevention program.   It is all so sad that politics is again affecting these little sheep and right before the AGM, the first one I was going to be able to go to.  So I guess I will avoid the ugliness, not financially support this association, and enjoy my little flock of sheep as they are.

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18 Responses to Real Shetland Sheep

  1. Terri says:

    Thank you for the pictures! Lovely sheep, aren’t they? Thank you also for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Gail Von Bargen says:

    I wrote this on your facebook page and then saw this link, so. . .
    I’ll repeat: I hate the controversy too. I think it was a nice, open set of standards without tinkering, and is now being restricted by people who don’t have enough important things to do in their lives. I’m staying out of the online ire, though. It’s ugly.

  3. Thanks for the comments Terri and Gail. I would like this to get settled. And they are wonderful sheep despite the behavior of their owners sometimes.

  4. Garrett says:

    Hi Donna! WOW When did you go to Shetland? And which island(s) were these photos taken on? I’ve seen photos of the white rams and moorit ones I think from Linda Wendelboe, so was curious to see which island they were on.

    Were all of these 100% shetland? the photo of the white ewe standing alone gives me thoughts of it being Shetland-Cheviot. Another photo of a white ewe and her lamb, a black ewe and her lamb appear to be crossed as well? The black ewe has extermely droopy ears and a roman nose, atypical of what I think Shetlands are? I could be very off base but they didn’t look like the rest of the sheep in your photos.

    I’m trying to argue with you, just asking questions. The spotted sheep look like Shetlands, and I love the rooing photos. I usually try and get to mine before they do that or I waste that wool!

    I also went to your website and saw fleece samples of your sheep. I think they are very representative of the breed and you shouldn’t feel like you are being attacked 🙂

    Sorry I’ll miss you at BSG!

    • They were all on the main island. We were there 1 year ago almost exactly. Some of the photos I questioned whether to post because I agree some look like crosses, and I do not know for sure.
      That’s funny because I read your sentence as “I’m not trying to argue with you” so I did not notice this until the clarification. A lot of the sheep in the UK (Shetland included) were not sheared, and the wool was wasted. It was a shame.
      One of my favorite ewes that I breed every year does not meet the new standard and the most of the others are longer than the new “longish” definition. All the sheep I breed have soft, very spinnable fleeces, or I would not breed them.
      I am going the BSG as I go every year I can, but I will not be participating in the dinner/talk, as at this point I have no desire. So I may still see you there.

  5. Garrett says:

    trying NOT to argue with you 🙂

  6. Jody says:

    How wonderful to travel to the Shetland Isles. I will get there someday too. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pics 🙂

  7. Tammy says:

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing these, I can see my little flock in some of these sheep. I agree with you on what is going on, and am heartily sick of what it is doing within the breed fanciers—especially new owners.

    • Thanks Tammy! They just looked so familiar to me. I wanted to stash some of those lambs in my coat and take them home. I am clear sad about these changes and I think it is confusing to the new owners as well as insulting to the long experienced breeders who are being “educated” on the breed standard.

  8. Nancy says:

    BEAUTIFUL, Donna! I love it. “REAL” Shetland sheep.
    😉 How appropriate.

    I hate the bickering as well. And I’ve even joined in the frackus! I hope I’m not offending anyone. (other than the ones pushing for all Shetlands having 2 inch long, frizzy fleeces)

    I envy you your trip to the Shetland Islands! How long were you there? Did you post about it or is this the first time? I’d love to hear more about your trip…

    • I am glad you have joined the fracas. And your voice should definitely be heard! We were only there a day. We drove all the way from York to Aberdeen and then took the ferry. I couldn’t get reservations for the day I wanted so we took the overnight ferry, toured the island quickly, and took the next overnight ferry back. In our brief stay we managed to see a lot, but I sure wish it was longer. I am not going to get Tom on the planes they use to fly there so any return trip is going to be similarly challenging. Unless some like-minded Shetland breeders want to arrange a tour and do not mind commuter planes flying over the North Sea and landing on a very windy runway (hint?).

  9. Nancy says:

    P.S. OMG ~ LOOK at all those HSTs !


  10. sheepsclothing says:

    Love your pictures- especially the rooing ones. The sheep (and the scenery) are just beautiful.

  11. rabbtux says:

    Thanks again, Donna, for sharing your Shetland Islands photos. I’d love to have a hst lamb someday. I’ve also been following the NASSA chat lately. Extremely “lively”. I do get to go to BSG this year so hope to learn as much as I can and stay away from the fracus. Hope to see you there!

    • I know long time followers have seen these photos before, but it soothed my mind to look at them again. “Lively” is a good word. Hopefully Black Sheep will be nice still and not “lively”.

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