The Soay Sheep
Historically, our property was a poultry farm, with the original farmhouse building being just a third of the size it is today. Dating back to the 1800's, it is built predominantly of reclaimed materials, including the external brick. Our internal doors came from a London Hotel, complete with room numbered keys and a large stone, fire place believed to have come from a local Church. Whilst environmentally friendly, maintaining a property of this type is challenging, and we can do with all the help we can get!
Using modern methods to maintain the land has failed monumentally; losing three tractors to broken axles, much blood and sweat, and not to mention all the arguments! Returning to basics seemed to be the only way forward. We introduced 10 male Soay Sheep to our paddock about 12 months ago, and they've done a sterling job at keeping the grass down and levelling the land.
They shed their fleeces naturally during Spring, and begin to look quite unkempt during the process. Just to keep the sheep tidy, we remove the straggly wool, and when ready, we remove the loose fleeces; if we can catch them! They are then bagged up ready to be handed over to Viking Re-enactment Organisations, who arrange for them to be woven into Viking tunics; particularly fitting given the history of Soay Sheep.
The History of Soay Sheep
The Soay sheep is a rare breed of domestic sheep descended from a population of feral sheep on the 100-hectare island of Soay in the St Kilda Archipelago, about 65 kilometres from the Western Isles of Scotland.
The Soay Ovis Aires has the most primitive appearance of any British sheep breed and takes its name from the island of Soay in the St. Kilda group. Soay means “sheep island” in Norse which suggests that there have been sheep on the island since at least the time of the Vikings.
107 Soays were transported to the island of Hirta in 1932, two years after the last human inhabitants had left and have been maintained as a feral population ever since, numbering around 1500 sheep today.
Over the years Soays have been imported on to the mainland but remain rare. Wool is shed naturally each year and is generally used for speciality hand knitting.
The feral population on the island of Hirta is the subject of a longterm scientific study, researching evolution, population dynamics and demography.