Soay sheep

Soay sheep

Soay sheep are a primitive breed of domestic sheep ("Ovis aries") descended from a population of feral sheep on the 250-acre island of Soay in the St. Kilda Archipelago, about 65 km from the Western Isles of Scotland. Undiluted by interbreeding, they are a genetic archive of the Neolithic origins of domesticated sheep.

They are similar to the Mediterranean mouflon and the horned urial sheep of Central Asia but their origins are uncertain, whether they have been deposited upon the island some time during the Bronze Age, or by Vikings in the ninth and tenth centuries. [ [ BBC News, "Sheep reveal 'body clock' clues", 23 April 2007] ] The name of the island, 'Soay', is Old Norse, meaning 'Island of Sheep', suggesting an earlier arrival. They are much smaller than modern domesticated sheep but hardier. They are extraordinarily agile, and tend to take refuge amongst the cliffs when frightened. They do not breed true, but tend to be either blonde or dark brown with buffish white underbelly and rump (known as "lachdann" in Scottish Gaelic, which is cognate to the Manx loaghtan), or totally black or fawn-coloured, a few have white markings. [St Kilda Summer, by Kenneth Williamson and J Morton Boyd,Hutchinson and co. Ltd 1960] In the early twentieth century, some Soay sheep were translocated to establish exotic flocks, such as the flock of "Park Soay" at Woburn Abbey, established by the Duke of Bedford in 1910, and selected for desirably "primitive" characteristics. [ [ "History of Soay sheep"] ] A number of Soay sheep were translocated from Soay to the island of Hirta by the Marquess of Bute in the 1930s, after the human population was evacuated. The Hirta population is unmanaged and has been the subject of scientific study since the 1950s. The population make an ideal model subject for scientists researching evolution, population dynamics and demography because the population is unmanaged, closed (no emigration or immigration) and has no significant competitors or predators.

Breed characteristics

The sheep have short tails and naturally shed their wool, which can be hand plucked (called rooing) in the spring and early summer. Ewes are polled, scurred or horned and rams are either horned or scurred. They are most commonly brown or tan with a white belly, white rump patch and/or white patch under the chin (referred to as Mouflon or wild pattern). Occasionally white markings on the face and/or body and legs occur. Rarely self-colored (solid color with no markings) black or tan individuals are seen.


External links

* [ Study discovers secret of Scottish sheep evolution]
* [ Soay Sheep Society of the UK]
* [ (North American) Soay Sheep Breeders Cooperative]
* [ Open Flock Book Project- USA Soay Sheep Database]
* [ Oklahoma State University - Soay Sheep]
* [ Soays of America]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Soay sheep — So|ay «SOH ay», noun, or Soay sheep, a wild sheep native to the island of Soay in the Outer Hebrides: »These apparently wild Soay sheep have bred on the island for centuries, virtually untended by man (New Scientist) …   Useful english dictionary

  • Soay sheep — /ˈsoʊeɪ ʃip/ (say sohay sheep) noun (plural Soay sheep) one of a primitive breed of domestic sheep from the island of Soay, off the western coast of Scotland, where they have remained in isolation from other breeds …  

  • Soay sheep — [ səʊeɪ] noun a small domesticated sheep of a primitive breed with a brown fleece and horns in both sexes, formerly confined to the island of Soay in the St Kilda group (Outer Hebrides) …   English new terms dictionary

  • Soay — (pronounced soy ) is the name of several Scottish islands. It is Sòdhaigh (sometimes anglicised Soaigh ) in Scottish Gaelic, and comes from the Old Norse so ey meaning island of sheep . It may refer to:* Soay, St Kilda in the St Kilda group *… …   Wikipedia

  • Soay, St Kilda — Infobox Scottish island | latitude=57.83 longitude= 8.63 GridReference=NA064014 celtic name= Soaigh norse name=so øy meaning of name=(Norse) Sheep island area= 99 ha area rank= 148= highest elevation=Cnoc Glas 378 m Population=0 population rank=… …   Wikipedia

  • Soay-Schaf — Soayschaf Das Soayschaf ist ein primitiver Typ von Hausschaf. Es repräsentiert den Zuchtzustand von Nutzschafen des Neolithikums. Es wurde entweder von frühen Siedlern oder später von Wikingern auf die Insel Soay im St. Kilda Archipel vor der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sheep — For other uses, see Sheep (disambiguation). Domestic sheep A research flo …   Wikipedia

  • Soay, Skye — Infobox Scottish island | GridReference=NG443145 celtic name=Sòdhaigh norse name=so øy meaning of name= Sheep Island area=1036 ha area rank= 48 highest elevation= Beinn Bhreac 141 m Population=7 population rank= 76= main settlement= Mol chlach… …   Wikipedia

  • soay — ˈsō(ˌ)ā noun Etymology: from Soay, island of the Hebrides, where the breed originated 1. usually capitalized : an old breed of small dark brown or blackish sheep that are horned in both sexes 2. s often capitalized : an animal of the Soay breed …   Useful english dictionary

  • Soay — So·ay (soi, sôʹā) n. A small, brownish, short tailed sheep (Ovis aries) of a breed that originated on the island of Soay in the Outer Hebrides. * * * …   Universalium

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