As I have said before on these pages (I think), when it comes to deciding which rams to breed, Soay owners engaged in conservation breeding face a dilemma: whether to breed rams with tight horns, including horns that have been cut. If we do not breed these rams, either because we do not like their looks or we are unwilling to take the time required to trim horns (which usually means a trip to the butcher), we risk losing other beneficial genes by selecting against tight horns. On the other hand, we can only assume that for the thousands of years Soay lived on their ancestral islands without human intervention, some of the rams with horns that impinged on their heads either died outright or were not nimble enough (because their heads couldn’t turn) to survive the competition of head-butting during rut. If that’s so, perhaps we should not routinely breed rams with cut horns if we are trying to mimic conditions on the islands.
Whichever way a breeder of full (RBST) Soay chooses to resolve this dilemma, we surely are in total agreement that all other things being equal, we would prefer rams with nice wide horns.
Okay, now that I’ve fulfilled my self-imposed duty to put at least a bit of advice or learning or lore in every post, I get to share the news that we think we have a worthy successor to Astro in the Department of Great Horns. Remember Astro?
Even as a several-month old ram, Astro showed signs of ending up with uniquely long and curling horns, not guaranteed, but a good bet, agreed?
Now have a look at Saltmarsh Sandford, born on April 5, 2016, son of Saltmarsh Upton (a stunning white-spotted ram with worthy horns) and Heywood, a black ewe with good ewe horns. At just shy of six weeks, Sandford’s horn buds already were wide apart and aiming wider:
A couple of days ago, with Sandford now almost four months old and probably about the same age as Astro in the picture above, his horns are even wider at the base and of course much wider at the tips. I apologize for the fuzzy pictures; our ram lambs had just moved to new grass and they did not want to stop for pictures.
We can’t wait to see how Sandford’s horns turn out. He is for sale, but only to someone who will promise to send us pictures periodically. It also should be noted that almost all our rams have perfectly good horns, many of them in the “excellent” to “outstanding” category. But it is just plain fun to go out on a limb and predict that Sandford’s will be epic. After all, why raise heritage sheep if you can’t brag about them?
For now …