The Shetland is a small, wool-producing breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles, Scotland, but they thrive in most areas of the US. It is part of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group, and it is closely related to the extinct Scottish Dunface.
The Shetland sheep is a small-bodied animal with some wool on its face, nose, and legs. Their legs are of medium length and finely boned. Rams weigh
90-150 pounds, while ewes are smaller at 75-100 pounds. Many Shetland ewes have twins, triplets, and a few even have quads. They are easy Lambers and make great mothers. Shetlands have 11 colors in black, brown, and white with many different shades and have 30 different patterns and markings.
Shetlands eat only 1/2 to 1/3 as much hay as a commercial-sized wool/meat sheep. Shetland sheep can provide healthy, grass-fed, mild-tasting gourmet quality meat. These sheep can hold lamb-like quality until they are at least three years old. Shetland Rams can be horned or polled (no horns).
Ewes are generally hornless but can also have horns.
Fun Facts about Sheep
Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) insisted that his hosiery be made from fine Shetland wool.
Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) wore and commissioned fine hosiery and shawls made from Shetlands wool.
Lightweight warm Shetland jumpers (sweaters) were worn to the top of Mt. Everest by Hillary and Tensing in 1953.
Fair Isle sweaters were originally made from Shetland wool yarn and the technique originated on one of the Shetland Islands named Fair Isle.
Fine Shetland yarn is used to make the famous Shetland Islands Wedding Ring Shawls. This lace shawl is so delicate that one can draw it through a wedding ring.
Fine Fleece Shetland fleeces generally have a staple length of 2-6” (but should not exceed 7”), are dense, with crimp/wave.
These fleeces can have a smooth silky or cottony feel and produce excellent yarn with lots of “life.”