Bill With Anastasia

Bill With Anastasia
Bill Eatmon - 1955 - 2006 Co-shepherd at Sheltering Pines from June, 1996 to August, 2006.


The Breed

Shetland sheep are  classified as a primitive breed.  They are small, fine-boned sheep belonging to the Northern Short-tailed group. They have adapted to the topographic and climatic conditions of Shetland for over a thousand years. They are very hardy and have the ability to thrive on low levels of nutrition. They are prolific with a prolificacy of about 160%. They are highly adaptable and succeed well in less rigorous conditions off the Shetland Islands. There is a considerable variation in height and weight of sheep depending on feeding conditions.  Rams may be horned or polled.  Ewes are normally polled but occasionally may develop short horns that curve backwards. The horns of the ram can be round or angulate in section, with transverse wrinkles. They rise above the head in an open spiral with the tips directed outwards. They are set well apart at the base, ideally one to two inches. A ram with heavy angulate horns may have a narrower base.  Rams should weigh 90 to 125 pounds and ewes from 75 to 100 pounds.

A special feature of the head is the straight facial profile, but with a distinct hollow between the cheek and nose. The eyes are protuberant and set well apart - about three-quarters of the distance between the nose and the top of the head. The ears are small and fine, set well back on the head and carried slightly above the horizontal. Small amounts of wool are normally present on the forehead and almost always on the cheeks. A straight and level back and a well-rounded rump are indicative of the general quality of the sheep. The tail has 13 vertebrae, much shorter than commercial sheep that have 26 vertebrae. It is fluke shaped, broad at the base and tapering for three quarters of its length then continuing without further narrowing to a flattened tip. The upper portion of the tail is wool covered, but there is hair at the tip. The tail length varies in keeping with the size of the sheep, but is usually between 4 and 6 inches. This characteristic can sometimes be passed on to crossbred lambs.

The most important attribute of the breed is its wool, which is the finest of all native breeds and which shows an amazing variety of colors and patterns. There are 11 main whole colours and 30 recognised markings. The fleece tends to be shed in spring. At this point the fleece can sometimes be plucked or rooed by hand. The fleece weighs from 2 - 3lbs.

Shetland Sheep Standard
Description and Scale of Points (Score out of 100)
Reproduced from:
The Shetland Flock Book Society Bye-Laws & Regulations 1927
'Objects and Standards of the Society'

General character and appearance(Horned or Hornless)9
HeadGood width between ears, tapering rapidly to base of nose, which should be broad and with little taper to the muzzle, hollow between cheeks and nose well marked.9
FaceMedium length of face from eyes to muzzle, nose prominent but not Roman, small mouth.5
EyesFull, bright, and active look.3
EarsFine, medium size, set well back, carried slightly above the horizontal.4
NeckFull, tapers into a fairly broad chest.4
ShouldersWell set, top level with back.6
ChestMedium width and deep.5
BackLevel, with as much width as possible.9
RibsWell sprung and well ribbed up.4
RumpGood width, with well turned rounded hips.5
TailFluke tail. Wool at root forming the broad rounded part, and tapering suddenly to barely covered fine point. This is a strong character, and any crossing is easily made out by it. Length varies according to the size of sheep, rarely exceeds six inches, or thereby.9
Legs of MuttonLight, but very fine in quality.4
SkinVaries according to colour of wool. In white no blue or black colouring2
WoolExtra fine and soft texture, longish, wavy, and well closed. Wool on forehead and poll tapering into neck, likewise wool on cheeks. Colours: white, black or brown, moorit (from reddish to fawn). Greys (including Shaela). Other known colours - Mirkface (brownish spots on face); Katmoget (dark under parts from muzzle to tail and legs), Burrit (light underparts); also Blaegit, Fleckit, and Sholmit.20
CarriageAlert and nimble, with a smart active gait.2

Long heavy tail, broad to point.
Bad wool, coarse and open.
Very coarse wool on breeches.
Deformities of jaws.
Undersized animals.
Defective coloured or badly shaped animals as sires.
White hairs in moorit and black, and dark hairs in white.

The above breed standard has been further clarified with the document called Appendix A and should be interpreted using this clarification:

SHETLAND SHEEP Description and scale of points explanatory note
All sections in normal (non­italic) type constitute the 1927 Breed Standard.
All sections in italic type comprise the Explanatory Notes provided as an aid to clarity for Breeders,
Inspectors and  Judges. These Explanatory Notes were prepared by a sub­committee of the SSS set up with the approval of the 1999 AGM. Part of the sub­committee's remit, recorded in the minutes of the May 2000 Committee Meeting, was to  'look into the possibility of clarifying the 1927 Breed Standard'. The sub­committee produced a series of notes to be read in conjunction with the relevant points in the Breed Standard.  These were unanimously accepted and endorsed by the full Committee.
This appendix was unanimously adopted by NASSA as a description and clarification of the 1927 Breed  standard, on November 09, 2009.


Should state that both 'round in section' and angular are acceptable.
For clarification. The Standard does not indicate a preference and early photographs of Shetland Sheep  examined by the Committee show both.
SHOULD ALSO STATE that polled rams and horned females are acceptable.
For clarification. There are early­recorded observations which refer to both, i.e. 'Shetland Sheep'  as published  in 'The Field' on 10/3/1927 and a very good photograph of a polled ram published in the book 'Farm Livestock of Great Britain' before 1927.
SHOULD ALSO STATE that the horns of a ram should rise in a curve above the head and then spiral round  according to age.
The rise of the horn is an important distinguishing feature of the Shetland Sheep. Described in 'The Field' on 10/3/1927.

Good width between ears, tapering rapidly to base of nose, which should be broad and with little taper to muzzle, hollow between cheeks and nose well marked.
Basically clear as written, but the sub­committee highlighted that the reference to 'well marked'  referred to the hollow between the 'cheeks and nose' being clearly distinguishable.

Medium length of face from eyes to muzzle, nose prominent but not roman, small mouth.  Reference to a 'small mouth' means not large lipped, droopy or pouty lipped, with a mouth in  proportion to the size and shape of the face, with a proper taper reducing down to a small mouth.
REASON For clarification. If 'small' mouths were bred for as a Shetland characteristic, it would result in  overshot mouths.  Probably originally highlighted to distinguish this feature from other breeds such as the Cheviot or Suffolk.

Full, bright and active look.
Clear as written but should be expanded to say 'ideally slightly bulbous'.

Fine, medium size, well set back, carried slightly above the horizontal.
Clear as written.

Full, tapers into a fairly broad chest.
Should state that a Shetland has to have a clearly defined neck.
See below in conjunction with shoulders.

Well set, top level with back.
Needs considerable clarification.
A sheep must have withers to enable it to move freely. 'Well set' means not too narrow, but set  properly between neck and back, showing a promontory (slight hump) thus defining the neck which would otherwise be lost in the back. It also means that the shoulder blades should slope from the front towards the back, not straight up.

 Medium width and deep.
'medium' means medium in proportion to the size and conformation of the sheep.
BACK – Level, with as much width as possible.
Clear as written, but could be annoted that 'level' means parallel with the ground, and that the  width of the pin bones determines the width of the sheep.
RIBS – Well sprung and well ribbed up.
Should be clarified by changing to 'well sprung from back around side' with a simple illustration  of the right and wrong shape.
As written is saying the same thing twice, and not with much clarity.

Good width, with well tuned rounded hips.
Clear as written.

TAIL – Fluke tail. Wool at root forming the broad rounded part, and tapering suddenly to barely covered fine  point. This is a strong character, and any crossing is easily made out by it. Length varies according to the size of sheep, rarely exceeds six inches, or thereby.
Clear as written, but 'thereby' should be replaced by 'thereabouts', and the description expanded  by stating that the tip of the tail should be covered with hair, not wool, and should preferably be flat, not  round or plump.  A good tail seems to fit tight into the fleece on the rump as compared with the fat long tail of many breeds.

Light, but very fine in quality
This term has nothing to do with the legs from the hock down, but is clear in the context of the  quality of the 'leg of lamb' in modern terms.  As far as the lower legs are concerned, in general terms they should be light boned and free from wool below the hock in the adult sheep.  Viewed from behind, the rear legs should be perpendicular from the hock to the pastern, and should be wider apart than the fore legs. The pastern should have a medium slope, and show no  signs of weakness. Feet should be well shaped and small in proportion to the size of the sheep.
Reference to early photographs illustrate this latter point clearly.

 Varies according to color of wool.  In white no blue or black coloring.
Clear as written

 Extra fine and soft texture, longish, wavy and well closed. Wool on forehead and poll tapering into neck, likewise wool on cheeks.
Colours: White, Black or Brown, Maorit (from reddish to fawn), Greys (including Sheila). Other
known colours:  Mirkface (brownish spots on face), Catmogit (black underparts from muzzle to tail and  legs), Burrit  (light underparts); also Blaegit, Fleckit and Sholmit.
Should be clarified and expanded as follows: 
'Longish probably means 3” to 5" in full fleece, Certainly no Shetland should have a staple of7 ". 'The Field' 10/3/1927.  'Well closed': of medium density.   'Wool on forehead and poll, likewise wool on cheeks' to be clarified as 'not in excess', Reference to early photographs illustrates this clearly.
There should be no frill. 'The Field' 10/3/1927.
'Wavy' means what we now term as crimp. The Universal Dictionary defines crimp as 'the natural curliness of wool fibres'.
A good description could read as follows:
Wool­ Extra fine and soft above all else. Crimped, of medium density and (length) 3 to 5 inches in  full fleece.  Breeches having coarser/longer wool but not extending into thighs. Wool, not in excess, present on poll and cheeks.
We should also note that the colours listed in the Standard are not exhaustive.

Alert and nimble with a smart active gait.
Clear as written. 

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