North Ronaldsay Sheep

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What are my special features?

The sheep have a small head, with the ewes having a dished face. The rams are horned and ewes vary between horned, polled or scurred. The sheep have a double-layered fleece with a very coarse outer-wool, and an extremely fine, soft inner-wool. The North Ronaldsay Sheep are the only animals in the world, aside from a certain Galapagon lizard, to be able to subsist entirely on seaweed, leading to its nickname ‘seaweed sheep’.

Champions of North Ronaldsay mutton hold it in the same regard as prosciutto ham, truffles or caviar as it has a unique flavour. The meat is lean and has a distinct gamey taste. The breed is also renowned for its varying wool colour which ranges from cream, pale grey, chocolate brown and black making it ideal for knitwear.

What is my history?

The breed is thought to be over 5000 years old. The breed is farmed within the Northern Ronaldsay Islands, Orkney and kept nearby the seashore for most of the year. In 1832 the Laird of North Ronaldsay decided that his pastureland should not be wasted on native sheep and a dyke was built round the island to keep them on the shore and off the land. It was most probably this separation that resulted in the preservation of the North Ronaldsay, as it prevented cross breeding which had been the downfall of other Orkney sheep.

Why am I forgotten?

The majority of the sheep are still kept on the Northern Ronaldsay Island and require a unique farming system. Knowledge and consumption of the breed is highly localised.

Don’t lose me… cook me!