Kate, a first-time Soay breeder, called me excitedly the other day to announce the arrival of her very first British Soay lamb and sure enough, she wanted to know what the furry little creature will look like when it grows up. Has any new Soay breeder not wondered what her lambs will look like as adults?
The truthful answer is, of course, “no clue. Be patient.” But perhaps a few examples will give Kate and other first-timers, and those of you just thinking about getting heritage sheep, an idea of what some Soay look like as lambs and as full-grown sheep.
You may ask, are these pictures typical of Soay sheep? Are the animals pictured here a random sample of the possible variations? A confession: as shocking as it may seem, I tend to take more pictures of lambs who are even cuter than average, who exhibit the less common phenotypes (black, tan, white spotted), or adults who stand still for the camera — than I do of sheep who insist on lying down or burying their heads in the grass, or who seem less photogenic for whatever reason. In that sense, the pictures are not a random sample. But none of these animals is unique and I tried to pick both plain brown sheep and the more noteworthy appearing animals. Enjoy the pictures, and then go watch your own lambs grow up; it’s a lot more fun than looking at someone else’s sheep.
Appleby at age 4 weeks basks in the spring sunshine
Graceful Appleby at age 6 years on lush summer grass
Whitehall at age 3 weeks had fairly short horn buds for a ram
Whitehall, at age 3 with his full rack, is done breeding for us
Buttermere at age 3 weeks. Compare her white pattern with her adult picture
Buttermere at age 6 years chowing down spring grass
Stockbridge was a typical brown mouflon Soay lamb
Stockbridge as a yearling
Bottle baby Patterdale in our kitchen at age 1 day
Patterdale at age five in the maternity ward waiting to lamb
Light phase Fouldon at age 2 weeks in the lamb play yard
Fouldon, pictured here at age 4, has finished breeding for us and is ready for a new home
Fetching ewe lamb Kendal looked as if she were about to take off using her ears as wings
Kendal, pictured at age 5, had not shed her winter coat that spring
Black Buckley at age 6 days in the nursery
Buckley at age 4 months had started to fade around his mouth and eyes
Buckley at age 3 shows the small white markings that back him off fully self-colored
Merrivale at age 2 and 1/2 months was an irresistible white-faced tan lamb
Merrivale at age 2 years looking matronly just 4 days before she lambed for the first time
Kettlewell at age 1 week trots around the well-worn lamb play yard
Shown here at age 6 years, Kettlewell matured into a very mild-mannered and stately ram
Tiverton at age 10 weeks had atypically long horns for a ewe lamb
Adult Tiverton with long sideswept horns. Compare them to her baby picture
The life of a shepherd occasionally mimics the life of a human parent, and so it is with firstborn offspring. Our first British Soay lambs were twins Trenear and Tolcarne and we have orders of magnitude more photos of them than our next generations of little Brits. Now I know why I took all those pictures — so I could show a more nuanced growth procession. Drumroll: Saltmarsh Trenear.
Trenear at age 55 days. It was obvious even then that he would have great horns like his parents, Chestnut and Astoria
Trenear at 11 weeks and look at those horns grow!
Trenear at age 1 year, beginning to show the same white “beard” as Chestnut
Trenear one month later taking his leisure
Trenear at age 3, great horns, great white beard, ratty coat not yet shed
Trenear age 4 years shortly before he left for new conquests elsewhere. Note left eye flap battle scar
Every so often I hit lucky and capture a parent and its offspring in the same picture. Not sure whether I have enough of those for a whole separate post on “like father, like son,” but I think you will be amused by these two thugs. Chestnut was a barrel-chested, pugnacious little ram who produced terrific offspring, but he was a fighter and ended up with a large flap of torn skin hanging over his right eye. A few years later, his son Trenear, who as noted shares both Chestnut’s great horns and his impressive beard, took a similar hit, but to his left eye. Like father, like son!
Chestnut and Trenear had mirror-image battle scars on their eyes, but no harm done
For now …