Boreray Sheep

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The Boreray is found mainly on Boreray Island in the St. Kilda group. They originated in the late 1800’s from a cross between the Blackface and a variety of the old Scottish Dunface/Tanface sheep from the Iron Age, which is now extinct so this is all that remains. When the people left St. Kilda in 1930, sheep were left behind on Boreray where they have been a feral flock ever since. In the 1970s a small group of six animals was brought over to the mainland but the mainland population is very small.

It is a primitive breed of sheep, with a small, slender frame. Ewes weigh around 30kg and rams 45kg. Most Boreray have a cream fleece with grey or black and white face and legs and can have a darker area of wool on the rump. Sometimes they are darker and rams can have a ‘collar’ around their neck. Their wool is known to be fine and good for spinning. All have heavy spiraling horns. Their meat is flavoursome and usually eaten as hogget or mutton to allow the meat to mature and the cuts to become a little larger. They are slow growing and perfect for the environment in which they live, that could support little else.

They happily exist in the most rugged land and extreme climate but their dainty size and slow growing characteristics make them unfashionable and less profitable in the eyes of commercial agribusiness. We have already seen many breeds disappearing this way.
Boreray are the very last descendants from the Iron Age Tanface and thrive in these far north isles where they are in their element, living outdoors all year round, off the land. There are not currently bred commercially but there would be opportunities to do so should their importance be more recognized. There are only 300-500 breeding animals left.

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Breeds and animal husbandry

Nominated by:Wendy Barrie, Bosse Dahlgren, Marcello Cussotto