At Severn View Farm we keep only one type of sheep, the Shetland. In the very early days we decided we would keep Shetlands and Jacobs but we now prefer the little Shetlands as they are lighter on the ground and easier to handle.
Shetlands are a primitive sheep. They have not been "improved" in the way that most of the other breeds have and therefore they keep much of their original character. There is a belief that the sheep originally came to the Shetland islands from Norway with the Vikings and were bred with the Mouflon (wild sheep similar to the Soay). This produced a small hardy sheep that was well suited to the Shetland Islands where there are no trees for shelter, and where they need to forage on poor grass and seaweed.
The other consequence of their specialisation for their environment is that their wool is much finer than that of other sheep having an average thickness of 23 microns and a pronounced crimp (4 crimps per cm). Shetlands are not really at home in very wet areas but they do have an advantage over other sheep in that they can shake themselves like a dog to get dry. This is a really amazing sight.
There is great variation in both the colour and patterns of Shetland sheep, which are all named using the old Shetland dialect. Names like Katmoget, Moorit, Yuglet and dozens more all represent colour variations and patterns in the Shetland fleeces. In addition there are all shades of colour from white to black.
We currently have a flock of around 40 ewes. Shetlands naturally lamb a lot later than other sheep, so we are normally only just starting to lamb in April when other shepherds are all but finished. The lambs also grow a lot slower than commercial sheep and are often eight to ten months old before they reach slaughter weight.
One of the best sights in the world must be the lamb races that occur every evening during the summer months. Lambs of all ages and with one accord chase each other and leap about the fields for about half an hour at around seven in the evening.
All of our sheep are trained to come to a bucket of food so we do not need to chase them about the fields with a dog, in fact our prize winning lamb Brandy will tap you on the leg with her foot until she has had her fuss.