Have you heard my latest? I’ve adopted a sheep! And not just any old sheep. Oh no, this one’s a rare breed. Ouessant sheep are named after the island, 18 miles off the west coast of Brittany. They are mainly black, very hardy and purported to be the smallest breed of sheep in the world! Only reachable by ferry or small aircraft, the island covers six square miles. With harsh weather, strong winds and storms the island boasts six lighthouses and is definitely not a place for the faint-hearted.
For many centuries, the island dwellers lived mainly from fishing and kept the sheep for their wool. The black fleece was popular for weaving because the population was often in mourning for fishermen lost at sea. However, with the dawn of the 20th century the dense, black wool of the Ouessant became unpopular because it was so difficult to dye and commercially useless. The islanders imported paler sheep from the mainland and soon the Ouessant was in danger of dying out altogether. However, a few kindly and determined souls decided to rescue and maintain the bloodline of this now rare breed.
‘My’ sheep lives on de buurtboerderij, Ons Genoegen (Our Enjoyment) in the Westerpark. De Buurtboerderij is a former farmhouse, lovingly converted into a vibrant community centre run mainly by volunteers. For just 50 euros you can help the shepherdess Monique maintain the herd of 23 sheep. The last weekend in June was sheep-shearing day so I donned my Bathsheba Everdene frock and sashayed down to the ol’ farm to pour out some cideeeer and take a few snaps.
A blast from the past – the two black and white photos are of me and my mum with Mum’s prize-winning herd of Clun Forests and ram lamb champion, Rocky in 1966. Clun Forests are also now a rare breed. Bred mainly for wool they originate from Shropshire in England.
t.n.v. De Regenboog Groep
RSIN: 003790046 – State donation sheep, or adopt a sheep
They are lovely sheep, aren’t they? I think you could write a lovely short story based on the island and the sheep. Great photos.
Thanks, Vanessa. I was just thinking of that as I wrote this blog. It sounds a fascinating island, remote and rugged and those lighthouses have definitely sparked my imagination!
What an interesting post, and kudos to you for helping to save the sheep!
Thanks for your comment, Julia. And I hope I will inspire others to support this community project.
Wonderfully written & very educational.
Thanks for commenting, Martin and I’m glad you enjoyed my blog post!