A Little Bit of Breed History

The Shetlands' roots go back over 1,000 years, probably to sheep brought to the Shetland Islands by Viking settlers. They belong to the Northern European short-tailed group, which also contain the Finnsheep, Norwegian Spælsau, Icelandics, Romanovs, and others.

Today they are considered a primitive or "unimproved" breed. This means that although they are small and relatively slow-growing, they maintain natural hardiness, thriftiness, easy lambing, adaptability and longevity. Shetlands survived for centuries under harsh conditions and on a meager diet, although they do very well under less rigorous conditions. Having retained most of their primitive survival instincts, they are easier to care for than many of today's "improved" breeds.

Shetlands are one of the smallest of the British sheep. Rams usually weigh 90 to 120 pounds and ewes about 75 to 100 pounds. Rams usually have beautiful spiral horns whereas the ewes are typically polled. They are fine-boned and agile and their naturally short, fluke-shaped tails do not require docking.

They are a calm, docile and easy-to-manage breed. Most respond well to attention and some even wag their tails when pet! In addition, the rams are (usually) safe to be around.

Classified as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) in 1977, Shetlands are now enjoying renewed favor and numbers. With the assistance of the RBST, Colonel Dailley of the African Lion Safari in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, imported 28 ewes and four rams from the Shetland Islands in 1980. This is the only importation of Shetlands into North America documented by the RBST, and these are the forefathers and foremothers of most of our North American Shetland flocks.

There have been a limited number of private Shetland semen importations into the United States over the past 10 years, bringing in additional Shetland genetics from the United Kingdom.

how we named our sheep

NASSA requires each registered Shetland Sheep to have a unique name or number. It can be quite a challenge naming 30 to 40 registered lambs each year! Though, with three children and two adults things can get pretty interesting.

At Windswept Farms, we used to choose a different "theme" for lamb names every year. Not only were the themes fun and entertaining, but they allowed us to quickly identify the age of a particular animal. Here are our past themes:

1994- Candy
1995- Flowers
1996- Disney
1997- Fairy Tales
1998- Star Trek Characters
1999- Planets
2000- Weather Phenomenon
2001- Insects
2002- Presidents and First Ladies
2003- Harry Potter Characters
2004- Favorite Artists and Musicians
2005- Sea Creatures
2006- Mystical Creatures
2007- Trees
2008- Periodic Table of Elements
2009- Cars
2010- Michigan Song Birds
2011- Herbs and Spices
2012- Cheeses
2013- Wines
2014- Breads
2015- Video Game Characters