05 april lambs 017.jpgFour generations together.

Hebridean Sheep are a small, primitive breed with two or four horns and soft, silky black fleece which is wonderful for spinning. Ewes typically weigh about 40kg. The legs are proportionately long and are thin and delicate below the hocks. The feet are small with exceptionally hard horn. The sheep are not inclined to fatness nor to carrying excess condition; mature adults even on good keep rarely have a body condition score greater than 3. The body is relatively long for an animal of the size with well sprung ribs; the back should be level throughout. They are great at leaping walls and are real escape artists!

There is evidence of them in Viking times, and, for a long while, they have been used as specimen animals on large estates.  They are very hardy the rigours of Lancashire are nothing to living on remote Scottish Iles.  They are excellent conservation grazers, as they prefer to eat the coarser grass and undergrowth (such a Mollina grass which invades heath land) which softer white sheep will not touch.  Perhaps because of this their meat is low in fat and cholesterol and has a rich taste. Their fleece is good, dense and weather-proof and is sought after by hand spinners and weavers.  It is purported to have a Bradford count of 48-50 and a staple length of 6-8 inches; the average fleece weight is about 2kg

The lambs (normally twins) are born with jet black curly coats which lengthen with age.  Hebridean sheep make excellent mothers, producing plenty of milk and taking great care of the new lambs particularly in the first few weeks.  As they grow their fleece develops a slight deep brown tinge from the sun.  Once they are about three years old they start to turn slowly grey, just like humans!  They are long lived, often living healthily until about 12 years old. 

 Mikeandsheep2.JPGThe sheep come when called

The Hare Appletree Flock

Hare Appletree is a small community in the Trough of Bowland, which catches the western wind and rain and has thick lush grass, and wonderful views extending to Wales and the Isle of Man on a good day. The animals share a quiet and peaceful life up in the hills with other animals that range from hens, ducks and geese to beef and dairy cows, as well as wild moor or fell creature such as deer, pheasant, buzzards, heron and hawks, and, of course, hares..

The Hare Appletree flock has been built up over the years, and has seen hebridean sheep move from a threatened rare breed to one that is well on the road to recovery and is now classed as a minority breed.  It is a pedigree flock of with around 25 breeding ewes, lots of lambs, and a couple of tups (as is the common name).  Every member of the flock has been DNA tested and is scrapie resistant and is fully traceable.

The flock are born and raised in Hare Appletree they know the area, and they wander around the fields in loose family groups, led by the grey matriarchs! They are reared under organic principles with minimum intervention and as natural a life as possible, consistent with good health.  Wool from the flock is sent to a small woollen mill in Wales where it is processed using the undyed natural colours of the Hebridean.  Most of it is woven into warm soft blankets or throws.  The throws are 72 x 54 and are dark grey/black, and are luxuriously soft with fringed edges. The blankets come in a range of sizes.  Some is also spun into a light Arran weight knitting wool with a subtle colour mixture of very dark grey with deep brown highlights or it

First 2008 lamb - in the mist.JPGPasture in the rain, again!