Break A Leg: Venus lambs successfully, and how!

Neither traditional dictionaries nor any of the numerous websites that trace the history of “Break A Leg” have seen fit to include lambing in their list of definitions, or Soay lambing as a possible source for the expression.  They obviously haven’t been reading this blog.

Breaking a leg sure brought Venus good luck.  Last year, with her leg intact, she delivered a pair of mouflon boys.  While they were very cute and grew up to be very handsome, they were still not the black Soay we were hoping for from Venus, who in Steve’s genetics jargon is an obligate carrier for self-coloration.  Translation:  her mother was black.

But give this ewe a broken leg to contend with and boy does she ever rise to the occasion.  She not only produced a black lamb last week, but a huge healthy one at that, the biggest lamb we’ve ever had at a stunning 7 pounds 9 ounces (more than 3 times the size of Otley, for example).  I don’t know how many of you out there have had a broken leg, much less given birth with a splint on one leg, but I find it downright impressive that Venus managed her delivery, cleaned and completely dried off the lamb and fed him, all without our even knowing it had happened.   Here’s the happy pair, Venus and Tolleson, shortly after Steve jugged them [Side note:  I’m sorry I missed the jugging dance, with Steve stumbling backwards and Venus lurching forward].


By the next day, young Tolleson was wandering around the jug and Venus was behaving as though lambing with an immobile leg is the most natural thing in the world for any half-capable Soay ewe.  Look at the size of this lamb.  Most one-day-olds have to strain just to reach the ewe’s udder, for heaven’s sake.


It’s a good thing Tolleson is so big and robust, because we realized we needed to get Venus out and walking around as soon as possible after more than two months in spaces no bigger than 5 feet by 5 feet.  For the last week she and Tolleson have had the run of a corridor about 25 feet long and 5 feet wide adjacent to the jugs.  In this picture, Venus is doing laps at a most respectable clip, with Tolleson jogging along beside her.


We have no notion what we will do if we ever have another animal with a broken leg.  At this point, we are simply relieved Venus came through all of this alive and healthy and her lamb is alive and thriving.  Maybe when we get the lambs vaccinated and weaned and turned out to pasture, I will contact Wikipedia and suggest they modify their interminable lists of definitions and sources for “break a leg” to include “may ewe have a successful lambing.” 

But for now … 



2 Enlightened Replies

Trackback  •  Comments RSS

  1. Robbyn says:

    I enjoyed reading about the way to tell whether a ewe’s pregnant or not by the frolic factor, and am happy to see the happy ending, or beginning, Venus has had! I love the dark lamb color so much…do any of them ever stay that dark?

    I LOVE this blog…thank you for chronicling your Soay experiences. I DO want to have Soays when we get even the merest bit of land to accomodate them.


  2. priscilla says:

    Hi Robbyn, nice to hear from you again! The black lambs’ fleece bleaches some in the sun, but to varying degrees. The black adults often have beautiful medium brown-tipped fleece with black or almost-black roots. But the dead giveaway that they are still self-colored dark phase Soay (i.e., “black”) is that their faces, tummies, rumps, and legs remain black. By contrast, all other Soay in this country, no matter how dark or light the fleece is on their backs, have bellies that are at least somewhat lighter than their back fleece. If you want to see a nice array of Soay color, have a look at the pictures we have on the sale page of our farm website. I had so much fun photographing the horde of extra ram lambs who arrived this spring. For an even broader color spectrum, rummage around the Open Flockbook Project Gallery of photos ( Our Soay are just one of the 35 flocks with at least one of their animals represented in pictures. Soay born on our farm are shown in the Saltmarsh album of the Gallery. The most fun, however, is to go to the “2007 lambs” album, where many farms’ lambs are pictured.

    The merest bit of land? You don’t need much to have either a starter breeding flock or an all-rams or all-wethers starter flock. Let me know when you’re ready to take the plunge! Meanwhile, I hope the weather’s as glorious where you are as it is here — 70s, sunny, slight breeze, low 50s over night. Wow!