Saturday, December 16, 2006


That time of year again....time to get more hay to hungry mouths. To this end I now have a small truck piled with small bales and a load of big round bales coming next week. Yes, I used to always feed small bales out. Our barn was twice as big....plenty of room for feeders for forty sheep, and the hay was out of the winter snow there too.
Forty sheep....hmmm....there are more than that now....hmmm?
Here in the sinkin'valley, we usually don't have snow on the ground. I have a smaller barn with more concentration on rain shelter, and less on feeders. At least until lambing season starts. Besides one makes small bales any more....we are lucky to find round bales for sale and delivery. Yes, I have to worry about hay falling on ewes. Usually you can see the hay bales being eaten into mushroom shapes, and push the top over before it endangers any slow sheep under it's fall.
I wasn't interested in hay, however...maybe Christmas cookies...but not hay.

What I am questioning is the total lack of posts about spots on sheep. The only recent posts I have seen have been sheep for sale. I'm sure there used to be a flury of posts about shetlands and their spots. We have an entire yahoo group dedicated to that theme. But, no thoughts about questions about excitement, what-so-ever.
I have two thoughts about this ho-hum attitude. was a trend. something different that everyone wanted to hop-on-the-band-wagon. When I started breeding shetlands in 1999, there were very few black and white spotted sheep anywhere. And I'm sure there were some brown...but no one talked about them. Grey and Musket sheep came in spotted profusion....but then, those could very well not be spotted anyway. I knew only two midwest breeders who had or wanted to breed spots. When I traveled to the west coast, I asked about spots, and was met with...well, shock may be too strong a word...but there was no enthusiasm or interest in spots with the breeders I talked to. Bungling along, a few of us developed black and white spotted sheep....and eventually brown and white sheep.
Consider the fact that white spots on black shetland sheep is a recessive. Then consider the fact that brown...called also a recessive. So spotted brown sheep were only achieved after years of breeding. What happens when a spotted brown sheep is bred to a non-spotted black sheep? brown...unless mister black has a recessive for brown. And spots? likely in two generations those go away too. So it became trendy in recent years to flaunt spotted shetlands....and now some may continue to breed them, but more likely the spotted lines will start to disappear in the smaller typical shetland flocks. After all more than half of all registered shetland flocks have less than 10 sheep. No room for genetically different lines of spots.

Second point.....if there is a ho-hum attitude in the shetland breeder world, what caused it?
Spotted sheep are easy to buy. We now have plenty of black and white spotted ewes and rams, who can produce spotted lambs with ease. If a breeder has the room for one or two spotted rams, these spotted lines can reproduce lambs for years. So now....if a breeder happens to have a spotted lamb arrive, it doesn't get the awe and admiration that they used to get.
See, now, here is the point where I get off the band-wagon. I find the arrival of a spotted lamb way too exciting. Why? Because I never know what form those spots will take!

I believe the excitement has been mis-placed. The poster of Shetland spotting shows many many types of spotting. These sheep can come in a wild array of stripes and spots. I have been trying for years to develop a bielset spot.
For those of us not familiar with shetland names, that is a full ring around the neck of a different color....I would expect it's most common form is in a white ring on a black sheep.
Have you ever heard a breeder bragging about a bielset ring?....I'll bet you haven't. The breeders have been led to believe that the "perfect" spotted shetland only comes in one array of spots.
In fact, people jumping on the band-wagon only want one kind of spotting on their shetland sheep. They only want to buy those spotted sheep. I am coming to believe that the emphasis on that one set of spotting may well kill the interest in spotted shetlands. Boring!
If I never hear the expresion used again...I won't miss it. A yuglet is a yuglet. That's all. A sokket is a sokket....and believe it or not....there is no term in shetland spotting names for a white tip on the tail. All the common term bandied about for a spotted shetland has done is banish the true names for spotting in the breed. And along with it I guess, the excitement.
Ho hum....another one of those.
People no longer mention if their true spotted shetland has a ring around it's neck...that isn't included in their short-hand name for spotted sheep. I miss the term: yuglet, bielset, sokket....and who cares if they have a spotted tail?

What is wrong with a wildly spotted shetland? The term flecket was the one first used with S0555....he was a flecket. Flecket has been termed a bad it has been referred to as a "breeding mistake". Spots are spots....what is wrong with trying to develop a bielset without the yuglet or smirslet face? Why not try to get a yuglet without the body spots? How about the body spots with a plain black face? How about our own brand of oreo sheep? But, no.... the emphasis has been re-directed to only one form....that "perfect" spotted sheep.
The one that fits in the letters. How sad.
The brave spotted breeders have been combining patterns and spots....oh, you won't hear anything about the spotted grey or spotted musket....which is actually a spotted pattern.
I reallly don't know why they are so maligned...they are a lovely thing, and their fleeces are usually great!
What you hear about is the rare yuglet katmoget and spotted gulmoget. Now, I will admit, they are dramatically different. I never understood why people would intentionally "break" a patterned sheep with the addition of spots to it's line. Doesn't that diminish the idea of a katmoget or gulmoget in the first place? The idea, I thought, was to have a dominant pattern that covered everything else. Well, having brought a katmoget to my place...I now see the charm. Breeders get bored with katmogets...and eventually they will get bored with gulmogets.
If I had a lot of them sitting around, I would try to combine them with spots myself.
But, along with the-spotted-wonder in large or small letters....the spotted katmoget, spotted gulmoget, and gulmoget-katmoget will lose their trend.

I may have to start an underground spotted list...where people discuss spots without prejudice. Fleckets are valued for their wild spots. Where other topics are left to other lists....and bislset, and fronet can be heard and spelled out again. I get my excitement in small wiggling packages....not at Christmastime....but in the lambing time.
While I am waiting for a rare post about spots, maybe I should start a batch of cookies?


At 6:42 AM, Blogger Sheepmom said...

Way to go,Peeps. Who wants to look at plain old everyday solid-colored sheep any way. Bring on the spots. I like my little spotted packages I get every spring and when none arrive, I go talk to the boys to see what the problem is. Personally, the wilder the spotting the better - it makes for a more interesting looking pasture than solids. My theory - you can never have enough spots!!!
ValleView Shetlalnds

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Karen B. said...

You rock. Thanks for all you do for our breed of choice.

hugs from Twin Brook Farms in Minnesota; home of some very non-trendy spotted sheep.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Juliann said...

Hi Peeps, I loves spots (all KINDS of spotting patterns!) I love katmoget, gulmoget, and I also love Ag, moorits, and blacks. I love them all, and think we should keep pushing the envelope to see what crazy colors and patterns we can get out of these sheep. It's part of the fun or raising shetlands! The novelty just never wears off for me. :)



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