The Soay sheep is a primitive breed of domestic sheep (Ovis aries) descended from a population of feral sheep on the 250-acre (100 ha) island of Soay in the St. Kilda Archipelago, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) from the Western Isles of Scotland. It is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep breeds.
Grasses, herbs and shrubs
It remains physically similar to the wild ancestors of domestic sheep, the Mediterranean mouflon and the horned urial sheep of Central Asia. It is much smaller than modern domesticated sheep but hardier, and is extraordinarily agile, tending to take refuge amongst the cliffs when frightened. Soays may be solid black or brown, or more often blonde or dark brown with buffish-white underbelly and rump.
Soay sheep naturally lamb later than other sheep species, after a gestation period of 147 days, ewes will give birth to one or two lambs.
No major threats
Soay sheep are a rare breed and as such are governed and managed by the rare breeds survival trust, with all stock having to be registered and tagged.
- Latin Name: Ovis aries
- Class: Mammals
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Bovidae
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