The Soay is an example of the small, primitive sheep that inhabited the British Isles before the coming of the Romans and that were numerous before the Roman occupation. The name is derived from the island of Soay off the coast of Scotland and wild Soay sheep are currently found mainly on the island of St Kilda. The males of this breed are horned and the females may be either polled or horned. The Soay is short-tailed whilst all modern breeds have long tails and it has a white belly unlike modern breeds that lack a distinctive belly colour. The Soay also lacks the flocking instinct of most sheep and attempts to work them using sheep dogs result in the group scattering.
The Soay has a fleece varying from light to dark brown and sheds naturally in spring or summer. It is very fine and, in contrast to mouflon, the inner fleece is highly developed and it is difficult to distinguish an outer coat.
Wool quality: Staple length 5-15 cm; Bradford count 44-50; and fleece weight 1.5-2.25 Kg (3-5 lb).
[see the Glossary for an explanation of Bradford Count and Micron]
Icelandic sheep belong to the Northern Short-Tailed group of sheep and they were brought to Iceland by Viking settlers, who colonised the island between 870 and 930 AD. The Icelandic sheep is related to breeds such as Shetland and Orkney, which were predominant in Scandinavia and the British Isles at that time. The Icelandic is not a docile breed and they are alert and fast on their feet. Most are individualistic, their flocking instinct is poor and they tend to spread out which makes them good users of rough pasture.
The fleece has an inner and an outer coat typical of the more primitive breeds, with a fine undercoat called thel and the long, coarser outercoat called the tog. The thel is down-like, springy, lustrous and soft. The longer tog coat is similar to mohair, wavy or corkscrewed rather than crimped and is good for worsted spinning. The natural colours vary from white through shades of grey to black as well as several shades of morrit to brownish black.
Wool quality: Staple length 6–21 cms (undercoat & outercoat); Bradford count 46–70; and fleece weight 2-3 Kgs.
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Jacob sheep typically have black and white fleeces and both males and females are horned, carrying two, four and occasionally six prominent horns. The four-horned rams may have two vertical horns up to two feet long and two side horns curling down the side of the head. The two-horned rams usually develop the more familiar classic double curl. Horns on the ewe are shorter and more delicate than the rams' horns.
The white and the black wool may fade at the tips to dark brown and shade to grey. The wool is of medium grade, and the black wool, which grows out of black skin, frequently is shorter than the white wool, which grows from white skin. The Jacob is an old, unimproved breed and is slight in build. Typical fleeces will weigh 2-2.5 Kg and vary in colouring, crimp and fineness.
Wool quality: Staple length 8-17 cm; Bradford count 44-56; fleece weight 2-2.5 Kg; and micron measurement 28–39.
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