North Ronaldsay sheep

North Ronaldsay sheep

The North Ronaldsay Sheep is a breed of sheep living on North Ronaldsay, the northernmost of the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Until the middle of the 19th century, they were common across the islands of Orkney and Shetland. [ [ Caithness CWS - History - Articles - North Ronaldsay Sheep - Index ] ] They are notable for living on only seaweed for several months of the year, usually during the Winter. Their digestive systems have adapted to extract the sugars in seaweeds more efficiently. Therefore they are also known as Seaweed Eating Sheep. [] The grazing habits of the sheep have also adapted to their peculiar diet: instead of grazing during the day and ruminating at night as other sheep generally do, the North Ronaldsays graze with the tides (twice in 24 hours) and ruminate between low water periods. The sheep's source of hydration are the few fresh water lakes and ponds along the seashore, as they are kept along the shoreline by a six-foot-high drystone dyke. [ [ Island Explorations - North Ronaldsay ] ] This has been constructed in an effort to conserve the limited grazing land on the island. [ [ Sheep Centre - Sheep Breeds ] ]

Their meat is especially deliciousFact|date=February 2007 and exported to the finest restaurants around the world.

Wool from the sheep is spun in Lanarkshire on the Scottish mainland and returned to Orkney for sale. There is also a small wool processing operation on North Ronaldsay itself which produces fine clothing etc. for sale.

In more recent years colonies of the sheep have been established inland and on other islands to prevent the entire species being wiped out through catastrophe (i.e. foot and mouth). A small number have also been exported as an exotic breed.

It has been found that the sheeps' digestive system can readjust to a non-seaweed based diet within two generations.


External links

* [ North Ronaldsay Sheep Fellowship]
* [ Rare Breeds Survival Trust]

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