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Shetland

Status

Non-indigenous

Key Characteristics

The Shetland is a small, wool-producing breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles off Scotland. It is part of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group, and it is closely related to the extinct Scottish Dunface. Shetlands are classified as an unimproved breed. The breed is kept for its very fine wool, for meat, and for conservation grazing.

Although Shetlands are small and slow growing compared to commercial breeds, they are hardy, thrifty, easy to lamb, adaptable and long-lived. The Shetland breed has survived for centuries in difficult conditions and on a poor diet. Shetlands retain many of their primitive survival instincts, so they are easier to care for than many modern breeds.

History

Until the Iron Age, the sheep of the British Isles were small, short-tailed, and variable in colour. Short-tailed sheep were gradually displaced by long-tailed types, leaving short-tailed sheep restricted to the less accessible areas. These included the Scottish Dunface, which until the late eighteenth century was the main sheep type throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including Orkney and Shetland. The Dunface was replaced on mainland Scotland in the late nineteenth century with other breeds of sheep, leaving its descendants such as the Shetland breed on the less accessible Islands.

The Shetland Flock Book Society was formed in 1927 to protect the quality of the wool by retaining a true bloodline of the breed. This society is responsible for the protection of the breed in Shetland. Recently the breed has become popular with smallholders.

Uses

Shetland sheep are still a relatively rare breed and are mainly kept in the Shetland isles. They are commonly farmed for their prized wool. They also may be kept for their meat, but the small frame and slower growth rate do not lend themselves to commercial lamb production. They are good for conservation grazing because of their ability to survive on infertile land that would otherwise be agriculturally useless. Their good-natured temperament is also a major attraction in keeping Shetland sheep.

Suitable Habitats

The Shetland breed is well suited to rugged, exposed upland habitats.

Breed Societies

None Known of in Ireland.

Key Characteristics

The Shetland is a small, wool-producing breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles off Scotland. It is part of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group, and it is closely related to the extinct Scottish Dunface. Shetlands are classified as an unimproved breed. The breed is kept for its very fine wool, for meat, and for conservation grazing.

Although Shetlands are small and slow growing compared to commercial breeds, they are hardy, thrifty, easy to lamb, adaptable and long-lived. The Shetland breed has survived for centuries in difficult conditions and on a poor diet. Shetlands retain many of their primitive survival instincts, so they are easier to care for than many modern breeds.

History

Until the Iron Age, the sheep of the British Isles were small, short-tailed, and variable in colour. Short-tailed sheep were gradually displaced by long-tailed types, leaving short-tailed sheep restricted to the less accessible areas. These included the Scottish Dunface, which until the late eighteenth century was the main sheep type throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including Orkney and Shetland. The Dunface was replaced on mainland Scotland in the late nineteenth century with other breeds of sheep, leaving its descendants such as the Shetland breed on the less accessible Islands.

The Shetland Flock Book Society was formed in 1927 to protect the quality of the wool by retaining a true bloodline of the breed. This society is responsible for the protection of the breed in Shetland. Recently the breed has become popular with smallholders.

Uses

Shetland sheep are still a relatively rare breed and are mainly kept in the Shetland isles. They are commonly farmed for their prized wool. They also may be kept for their meat, but the small frame and slower growth rate do not lend themselves to commercial lamb production. They are good for conservation grazing because of their ability to survive on infertile land that would otherwise be agriculturally useless. Their good-natured temperament is also a major attraction in keeping Shetland sheep.

Suitable Habitats

The Shetland breed is well suited to rugged, exposed upland habitats.

Breed Societies

None Known of in Ireland.

Suitable Habitat Types

Grasslands

Uplands