Boreray sheep are the UK’s rarest breed of sheep, with just over 500 registered breeding ewes. They are a primitive breed, one of the family of North European Short-Tailed sheep. These sheep were bought to Northern Europe with the first Neolithic farmers and seem to have been spread by Norse Vikings to several countries and islands in the North Atlantic area.
Boreray sheep are small with fewer vertebrae in their tails than later breeds of long-tailed sheep. They have a double coated fleece, with very fine undercoat, and have retained the very primitive characteristic of naturally moulting their fleece each spring. This allows their fleece to be rooed (plucked) rather than shorn. They are a slow growing breed, not reaching full adult size until two to three years of age.
Boreray sheep, once found throughout the Scottish Highlands as the now extinct Scottish Tan-Face sheep, are now confined as a feral flock to just one small island in the St Kilda archipelago.
Orkney Boreray is the term used to refer to the Boreray sheep in Orkney that are the unique ‘lost flock’. They are on a separate RBST register to other Boreray sheep. You can read about this very special and rare group of sheep in the feature article starting on page 21 of Autumn 2017 edition of The Ark.
The main flock of Orkney Boreray is in West Mainland. We selected a small breeding group from our flock to move to Lochend farm on Shapinsay in 2017 as part of the breeding and expansion programme.