Hog Island #14

Black Hog Island fleece

This is a ‘black’ Hog Island fleece – maybe 10% of the breed throws a black fleece.  Maybe.   Great blocky locks, with a a fairly normal amount of kemp and weather typical of the breed.  Light VM.

Average staple 2.5″

Price is per ounce. 4 ounce minimum purchase.

Hog Island

Buy our fleece, they're very nice and rare, too.
Hog Island Ram

Breed categories: medium wool, rare, heritage,feral

Distribution: United States

Breed History

About 200 years ago, a flock of sheep was established on Hog Island, one of Virginia’s barrier islands. The sheep were already native to the area and are reputed to have descended from Merino and the occasional subsequent introductions of down breeds to the population, the last being in 1953, when a Hampshire ram was taken to the island.  The breed evolved on its own into a hardy, self sufficient sheep.

Hog Island sheep are one of the few populations of feral sheep in the United States. Feral sheep are rare worldwide, because sheep do not adapt easily to unmanaged habitats. Feral sheep like Hog Islands are usually found on islands which lack predators.

In 1974, the island was sold to The Nature Conservancy, which decided to remove all the sheep and cattle.
Gunston Hall Plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia, eventually became the owner of the greater number of these sheep and exhibited them as part of their replication of 18th century plantation life. Hog Island sheep evolved and survived for over 200 years in an extremely harsh environment on a limited diet and no medical attention.  It is estimated that there are approximately 200 Hog Island breeding ewes, mostly in Virginia, with some in Maryland.

Breed Characteristics

Because of the small population, only the most general descriptions of the breed should be made.  Hog Island sheep vary in physical appearance. Most of the sheep are white with spotted faces and legs, though about ten percent are black. Newborn lambs are frequently spotted over the body, but the spots usually disappear as the lambs mature.  Both ewes and rams may be horned or polled. Mature animals weigh 125-200 pounds.

Wool is of medium weight and variable in type and amount.  Because the sheep are feral, they can roo, which will often result in a roo line on the fleece, but most flocks are shorn as the shepherds continue to improve nutrition.  Staple length varies widely but displays a nice crimp due to its merino heritage while being a short, dense lock that reflects its down breed heritage.   The average staple length on the sheep we have had the pleasure of meeting has been 2-2.5″ with a micron count of between 20-3o microns.  The wool can be next to skin soft, but it may take some getting used to, and is fantastic for rugged outerwear.  As feral sheep they do have a lot of grease – which protects the fleece from the harsh elements.



Posted on

Accokeek Hog Islands

Sheep in the Mist
Sheep in the Mist – like gorillas, only smaller.

This past Saturday my web man and I had the opportunity to squelch out to the Accokeek Foundation’s National Colonial Farm where we met with Polly, the livestock coordinator, and the Stitch n’ Time crew.

See those sheep over there? That's where our fleeces came from!
See those sheep over there? That’s where our fleeces came from!

While we were there we met a number of the farm’s Hog Island sheep which are part ofthe Foundation’s Livestock Conservancy Program.  The two fleeces we have in stock currently come from sheep in this very photo!

It was QUITE the soggy day –  foggy, wet and squelchy but it was really rewarding to see these critically endangered sheep out in the fields, being lowed at by some cows and chased around by the geese, wandering about happily like the feral sheep they are. 

We also learned about picking cotton which was rather fun and right up my honey’s alley with his anal retentive streak.  I confess that I got a little excited about the natural green cotton myself, but fear not!  My heart still belongs to wool.  (Not that I don’t have a desperate need to have James weave us some naturally colored cotton kitchen towels now….) 

We spent some quality time with the stitch group talking about different fiber qualities, and the work done by the farm to restore the breed.  We carded some of their previously scoured Hog Island wool and did some spinning.  And we talked about the future.

Carding and spinning the fleece
Carding and spinning the fleece

James, in his historical happy frenzy, has volunteered us to participate regularly in their Stitch n’ Time – and it’s only fair.  We do love the Foundation’s mission, it is a living history farm (it’s possible that at some point in the future we’ll be dressed accordingly) and they have a small flock of a critically endangered sheep breed after all.  This project screams out for our attention!

You’ll find two of Accokeek’s Hog Island fleeces in the shop right now!  They’re quite lovely, and display breed standard: they have that crispness that fleece with down breed in their backgrounds have, with a short dense staple (2-2 1/2″) and good bounce.  Hog Island doesn’t felt very easily – and when you can convince it to, it’s a loose felt – which bodes well for socks accidentally thrown into the washing machine! – and it spins up very nicely.  This fiber will never create a smooth orderly worsted yarn though, and it’s not meant to; it’s lofty and airy and is great for woolen spinning. Hog Island shows stitch definition nicely with good round yarns, and it will wear well.  It cards beautifully and if you wanted to try combing I’d suggest mini combs.  But truthfully, this fiber sings when carded and woolen spinning really shows it off to the utmost.

The sheep were shorn by Polly herself and there will be more to come.  James and I will be going to the shearing in March to choose fleeces from the 2014 clip.  Even more exciting, The Spinning Loft is partnering with the Accokeek Foundation’s Farm to source quality Hog Island fleeces and 10% of all proceeds from our sales of Accokeek’s Hog Island fleeces will be donated back to the Foundation’s livestock program.

Hooray for saving sheep!  This is a great example of our mission in action.


Posted on

Getting ready for the holidays

Well hello there!

Photo credit: Wedgemondo (via Flickr)So – somehow the first year of our shepherding has come and gone.  Wherever did the time go?  In this year we have seen some fun things around The Spinning Loft –  new fibers from Norway, the development of our new Beth Smith and Down Breed samplers, working with Accokeek to foster Hog Island sheep.  We worked with Spirit Trail to field a Tour de Fleece team and with Storey Publishing for Spinzilla.  We have learned much and our adventures have brought us idea after floofy idea.

The fall brings us many tasks here at The Spinning Loft.  We have leaves new fleeces to sort, orders to plan and dream tools to seek out to bring to you.

We still have just under 2 months to go in 2014 – and it’s the 2 BEST SHOPPING MONTHS!!!  We have some excellent goodies in stock and we have even more arriving just for the holidays! Here are just a few suggestions to help you settle in the cozy winter season:

  • Want to try a pin loom for sampling?  We have Schacht Zoom Looms in stock! These looms are fantastic for sampling or for making quick little projects – or even for making hand woven squares for larger projects like blankets, or sweaters, or totes!
  • Are you in need of fiber processing tools? We have combs and cards.
  • Haven’t picked up a copy of Beth Smith’s new book?  Get one for your favorite spinner!  Better still, pair the book with a sampler!
  • Now is an excellent time to pick up some more scouring liquid for your fall acquisitions.  We stock Kookaburra and Unicorn Power Scour.
  • If winter static concerns you when processing wool, a few drops of Unicorn Fiber Rinse (or Kookaburra!) mixed with water in  spray bottle helps tame those wooly tresses!
  • Did you know The Spinning Loft has knitting needles &  Stitch markers? and even knitting, crochet, weaving and yes, felting books?  We do!  We do! We do!
  • And of course we have spindles!  Including a small number of ne’er to be produced again Desko spindles.

 So in the spirit of the holiday festivities we are offering a 10% site wide discount (* some exclusions apply) now through December 15th – just enter the code HOLIDAY2014 at checkout.

In order to get all the shipping out and have our packages arrive on time to their destinations, we must send out our packages no later than Saturday, December 20th for domestic Priority Mail (First class).  International orders we suggest shipping no later than December 13th.

Max has claimed his own fleece!

We will also be taking some time to visit family over the holidays and that means a short break in shipping.  The site will keep taking orders while we are away – the internet never closes! – but we will have a shipping hiatus from December 21st to January 6th.

After all this, what on earth will we do in this next year?  We have a few things in the works.  So keep an eye out, listen for our tell-tale bleats and baas, and keep your spinning fingers primed!

Happy Holidays!

Alison, James, and Maximus

Your Spinning Loft Shepherds (and Wooly Overlord)

P.S. If you don’t see something – send us an email with your request. We can usually order it – and if we can’t, we will add it to our wish list and keep you posted.

* Discount coupon does not apply to looms or spinning wheels.


Posted on

How to Choose A Fleece

First you buy a few fleeces, next you buy a fleece store…

It’s that time of year again and the fiber festivals are coming fast and furious.   While most of you prefer to handle only a few ounces of raw wool at a time, or prefer not to be led astray by the heady fumes, a few brave souls after my own heart might attempt to choose a whole one.  Or two.  Or three.  Or…….

Let me first say that you can, in fact, buy whole fleeces from The Spinning Loft at a discount off our retail offerings.  Please contact us if this is something of interest to you – as we want to make sure you get a fleece undivided by previous orders! If we do not currently have such a fleece in stock, we can often place a special order, usually around shearing season.  Outside of shearing season, that becomes more challenging.

For those willing to brave the fleece sale at a local festival, particularly for the first time, there are questions, conundrums and qualms.  What fleece?  How much?  How big?  How do I choose?  What makes it worth it?

shearing_AccokeekThis my fiendish fibery friends is what I hope to assist you with today.  As you may be aware, it is shearing time and that means we have been busily sourcing fleeces.  We have spent the better part of the last 2 months visiting shepherds, choosing sheep and fleeces, assisting in the skirting – even, in some cases, the actual shearing.  Through all this we have been carefully evaluating each fleece.

The major questions I ask when I buy a fleece are the following:

Do I really need it?

I know, what an absurd question! The answer is always “yes, of course!” But occasionally the saner wombat among us says “Alison, do we really need a billionth Shetland fleece?”  (This of course is a ridiculous question because as all the people know every Shetland is different!  unique!  scrumptious!)  The real question here is not “do we need” but….

Do I like the color?

Is it a naturally colored fleece?  Is it a creamy white?  Do I have 23 moorit (brown) fleeces of identical color?  Would I prefer that glorious silver one over there? OOH SHINY!

What is the purpose of the fleece?

Do I want to make a million pairs of socks?  Mittens?  a Cable sweater? A lacy shell?  A lap blanket?  These factors influence what fleece I would buy for my project.  Some wools like Romney can be found and used for pretty much anything, but some wools, like Cheviot, may not be suitable for that wool bikini you’ve been dreaming of.

What is the condition of the wool?

Really, this is the question everyone wants to know about.  I could ignore all the others and just cover this one and you’d all be happy right?

To decide if a fleece is sound, I take a lock of wool and examine it.   I look at the crimp – is it right for that breed?  I look at the color.  I’m not looking for the actual color of the wool mind you – since that can’t really be known until it’s scoured (grease hides all manner of lovely color) – but for possible staining.  Some stains, like yolk, which often results in a buttery tint to the finished yarn, or mating tag, which actually does wash out, do no harm to the wool but may affect how you handle either the washing process or the finished yarn.  Canary stain on the other hand, will likely weaken the fiber. I look for breaks.  I sound the lock – gripping each end between the thumb and index finger of each hand, I tug on the lock near my ear and listen to the sound it makes.  Does it sound like fabric tearing?  Does it ring like a struck piano wire?

The results of these examinations are seen in all the photos I post on the site – the measurements, the description, the lock photos

How does the fleece look in the bag?

Fleeces are rolled with the cut (butt) ends out so you can see the goodness through the bag.  Some festivals have space to allow you to open up a fleece, some don’t.  If you can’t, don’t go tearing through the bag – you will disrupt the fleece (more on that later).  What you can do though, is turn the bag about, take a look at all the parts you can see – is there any evidence of VM or dirtier locks?  Fleeces at a show are skirted and VM is picked off, but sometimes things are missed, and some shepherds are more vigorous with their skirting than others.  The nature of the VM is more important than its presence.  Sometimes the roll opening is on the top of the bag and you can get a look at the tip end of the fleece in that area by ever so very gently opening it just an inch or so.

How expensive is the fleece?

Most fleeces are priced by the shepherds at a festival, not the festival itself.  Shepherds compare prices with each other for their breeds, speak with their breed associations, talk to the state or county agricultural boards, and factor in the cost of feed, hay, vets, coating and shearing to assist them in setting their prices.  Prices vary across breeds and I have rarely encountered a price on a fleece that I thought was outrageous.  That said, the price should fall into a range you want to pay.

How large is the fleece?

This is dictated by the type of sheep of course, as well as how often it is sheared.  It should fall within the guidelines of the breed standard.  But it also needs to be manageable by the person who will process it.  I may have a burning desire for a 40 pound Lincoln fleece, or a desperate urge for a merino fleece the size of Shrek’s at 60 pounds, but can I handle a single fleece at that size?  (And do I want to pay mill fees if I don’t?)

Is it a rare breed?

Some people don’t care about this, but I do and I will explain why.

Buy our fleece, they're very nice and rare, too.
Mick, the Hog Island, says. “Buy our fleece, they’re very nice and rare, too.”

A rare fleece, or a fleece that while not rare, is difficult to find, may be dirtier than a more common one.  For these fleeces I will make exceptions to some of my fleece condition rules.  Not soundness, or breaks, those have to stay, but in how filthy the fleece is – how greasy, or dirty it appears, how much VM is present.  For some breeds, mere survival is the key and while the battle for mere survival is being fought, other factors must be set aside.

In the case of a fleece that is rare ‘here’ but ‘not endangered’ I will also make certain allowances.  If I have trouble getting it, and the only flaws are dirt, there is no reason not to get it.

Dirt washes out, and VM can be addressed – even some of the more pulverized stuff.  I may not recommend such a fleece for a first time fleece processor, or someone who isn’t patient, but those things are not a deal breaker.  The condition of the fiber itself is the only deal breaker.

What if I just love it?

Assuming it met all the soundness and budget criteria, buy it silly!

Why the whole fleece?

Why indeed.  And this answer addresses why you don’t want to go pawing through a fleece sale bag as well.

You see, a fleece has different characteristics sometimes.  Some fleeces, like Merino (I do pick on merino don’t I?) have been bred to be perfectly uniform across a fleece.  Others, like Jacob or shetland, not only vary from sheep to sheep, but from area to area within a fleece.

When you get your fleece home, you can open it up.  With enough space, most of the time you can see the shape of the sheep in the fleece you have unrolled. The shoulders will have a different texture from the sheep’s back, the sides a different texture from the shoulders.  If the wool comes from a not so next to the skin type of sheep, it may well be that some of that shoulder wool is soft enough for that woolen bikini we talked about.  But on the same sheep, that back wool is perfect for some hard wearing mittens.  It’s all so exciting!

East Frisian fleece, with slightly grumpy Shih Tzu for scale.

Now that you know what to look for – I look forward to seeing you at a fleece sale!  Don’t forget your copy of The Field Guide to Fleece.

And remember, if it’s still too many things to think about while your oohing and ahhing over those gorgeous colored braids, and spindles, and yarns, and curly fries, and dipped soft serve, and sheep, and llamas, and dog trials, and spinning bowls, and sheep and goats milk soap, and…. well, you just let us know here at The Spinning Loft, and we’ll see about shipping you that whole fleece we have just waiting to be loved in Cube 5C3.

See you at Maryland Sheep & Wool!

Alison, James and (not*) Max

*Max won’t be at MDSW, he prefers to let us explore while he enjoys the quietude of his comfy bed and a good gnaw on his lamb shank.

Posted on

Fleeces and Lambs and Rare Breed Kits – Oh My!

So, I realized the other day that I haven’t written in a while.  Things have been so busy around The Loft in the past few months that we haven’t had time to stop whirling around like Dervishes in ages!

InterweavebreedskitAs you all know we spent some time developing a rare breeds sampler to accompany Interweave’s Rare Breeds Kit and it’s a big hit.  The Kit is made up of 6 very excellent rare breeds, Deb Robson’s Spinning Rare breeds DVD and her recently published Field Guide to Fleece – a must have book for any fleece shopper at a fiber festival’s fleece show and sale.  Who needs a field guild to wildflowers – we want WOOL!

We here at The Spinning Loft are very excited to have put together a sampler that covers 6 very varied breeds, one of which is the “sheep that makes Deb cry” in the video, with a great range of wool types and we think you’ll just love it.

It has arrived just in time you see.  Why you ask?

Hog Island Lamb
Isn’t she adorable?

Well, it’s spring of course!  Even though mother nature does seem to want to sleep in this year – and who could blame her- lambing time is upon us and with it comes shearing time.

I’m not entirely sure which one I like better, but I may have to lean slightly in favor of shearing for what I think are fairly obvious reasons:

Shearing time of course means spring fiber festivals!  It means fleece shopping! And boy do we love fleece shopping here at The Spinning Loft.  It’s better than coffee! Better than wine! Better than well… anything! (wow, can that be possible?)

And because it’s shearing time we have a few other things brewing around here, so keep an ear out for the sheep bells.

We’d also like to give a hearty shout out to A Certain Guild in Wisconsin for diving into a really fun breed study.  We had a great time assembling it for you and we hope you enjoy it!   If there are other Guilds interested in doing such a study, please feel free to contact us and we can develop a study package for you as well.

Happy Shearing!

Alison, James & Max
The Spinning Loft


The Shetland’s roots go back over a thousand years, probably to sheep brought to the Shetland Islands by Viking settlers. They belong to the Northern European short-tailed group of sheep, which also includes Finn sheep, Icelandic sheep, and Romanovs. The Shetland is a primitive, unimproved breed noted for its natural hardiness, lambing ease, longevity, and ability to survive under harsh conditions. It is one of the smallest breeds of sheep.

Shetlands are known primarily for their production of colorful wool upon which the Shetland woolen industry is based. Shetland comes in one of the widest ranges of colors of any breed. There are 11 main colors as well as 30 markings, many still bearing their Shetland dialect names. Shetlands naturally shed their wool during late spring/early summer.

Breed categories: primitive, short-tailed

Distribution: United Kingdom, North America

Classified as a primitive breed, Shetlands 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. For example hill sheep in Shetland, out-wintered as lambs, have a live weight of about 22kg whereas a park-fed ewe in the south of England averages 45kg. A ram in peak condition could weigh as much as 65kg.

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. Four-horned rams have been recorded and photographed but are rare.

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 colors and 30 recognized 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.

As a pure breed they produce very high quality lean meat with outstanding flavor and fine texture. When crossed with a suitable terminal sire the heavier, faster maturing lamb is readily acceptable at markets.

The following list summarizes the features of the breed and the benefits which arise from these features.

  • Hardy – can live and thrive outside 12 months of the year in most locations.
  • Thrifty – can survive on poor quality grazing, a higher stocking density can be used on fertile pasture, useful for conservation grazing.
  • Prolific with fecundity rating of about 160% – lambing rates comparable to modern breeds.
  • Easy lambers – intervention is rarely needed, lively lambs with a strong will to live, get up quickly and feed, good outside survival.
  • Milky mothers – hoggs will rear twins and mature ewes can rear triplets.
  • Ewes will successfully cross with a terminal sire – produce good medium weight butcher’s lambs.
  • Meat – lean with superb flavor and is low in lipid fat, excellent for low cholesterol diets; purebred lambs kill out at 8-15 kg October to January, ideal for small family cuts, Hoggs kill out at 12-20kg in April/May, extends the sale season.
  • High quality wool, finest of any British breed – ready market for fleeces and popular with handspinners.
  • Wide range of colors and patterns – can be used undyed to maintain softness (dyeing hardens the wool).
  • Easy to handle – ideal for smaller flocks without complex equipment and housing.
  • Attractive traditional appearance and range of colors and patterns – appeals to smallholders and estate flocks.

The History of the Breed

There is archaeological evidence that primitive sheep of the Soay type were kept in Britain by early Neolithic farmers over 4500 years ago. Horns of the Soay type were found during the excavation of Jarlshof, a noted prehistoric site on Shetland. The current Shetland gulmoget has Soay or Mouflon markings suggesting that these early sheep contributed to their genetic makeup.

Norwegians settled in Scotland and the Northern Isles around 500 AD. It is likely that they brought their own sheep to add to the Soay types and other sheep already there. Shetland sheep share many similarities with the Spaelsau and Vilsau sheep of south western Norway. There are wild sheep on the small islands off Bergen which resemble the double coated and patterned Shetlands of Foula, an inhabited island off the west coast of mainland Shetland.

Around 1200 AD the original short-tailed sheep were still present in the Northern Isles though crossing with the Roman sheep was producing distinct varieties. In the ensuing years these Northern Short-tailed sheep continued to develop into distinct breeds in isolated locations. People on Shetland may have been selecting, either directly or indirectly, for soft and fine wool from very early on in this period.

Early in the seventeenth century stockings were hand-knitted from hand-spun wool on Shetland for trade to the Dutch and English. However, in 1786 sheep scab, introduced through cross breeding experiments, devastated flocks throughout Scotland, including Shetland, reducing the amount of high quality wool available for the knitting industry. At the same time meat breeds of sheep with coarser wool were moving northward through Scotland and into the Northern Isles. Crossbreeding and changes in husbandry motivated by meat production had a negative impact on the quality of much of the wool produced.

For the next hundred years or so the Shetland wool industry waxed and waned in response to political and market forces but basically maintained its reputation for superior quality wool and lace work.

By the early 1900s, markets for lace work were disappearing but hand knitted garments were increasing in popularity. Knitters throughout Shetland adapted again to produce the richly patterned Fair Isle sweaters, hats and mittens. This industry was itself soon perceived to be threatened by a reduction in wool quality caused by cross breeding to improve carcase quality and so, in order to preserve the uniqueness of the Shetland breed, in 1927 the Shetland Flock Book Society was formed on Shetland. A Breed Description was drawn up and is still in use. The Shetland Flock Book Trust administers the sheep’s welfare for island residents to this day.

Since the 1970s, breeders on the UK mainland, adhering to the Shetland Flock Book Society Standard and tradition have bred to maintain a fine-woolled single-coated phenotype that probably reflects the best that Shetland had to offer. Early in the 1970s the quality of the sheep kept by mainland breeders was very variable in terms of conformation and fleece quality. It was not until the late Dr SHU Bowie became involved and suggested ram inspections to get sheep consistently closer to the Breed Standard that progress was made.

In 1977 The Rare Breed Survival Trust classified Shetland Sheep as Category 3 (Endangered). However, by 1985, the popularity of the breed on the mainland, particularly with smallholders interested in the range of colors and the fineness of the wool, was such that they were re-classified as Category 5 (Above Numerical Guidelines). In the 1990s the classification of the breed was revised to a Minority Breed. In 2002 Shetland sheep were removed from the RBST list of supported breeds.

At the present day the breed on the UK mainland is in a healthy state both numerically and in terms of quality and conformation to the Breed Standard. In 2008 1031 lambs were registered by 149 breeders from 822 ewes and 228 rams. 36 new rams were approved by the society inspectors. Majority colors were Black, moorit, grey and white, Katmoget being the most common marking. Some colors and patterns are still rarely encountered and work is underway to identify and conserve these.

Wool and Wool Colors in Shetland Sheep

The exceptionally fine soft wool of the Shetland sheep is the finest of any British breed. It is used to produce gossamer lace, the famous ‘fair isle’ knitwear, and fine tweeds. The Society’s Shetland fleeces are frequent prizewinners and have been exported to handspinners in the USA and Japan.

There are eleven main whole colors in Shetland sheep, with many shades and variants in between. The eleven whole colors are shown in the images below, which are taken from photographs by the late Dr SHU Bowie. There are two samples of Shaela because of differing meanings in different parts of the Shetland Isles.


Dark Brown


Light Grey

Markings in Shetland Sheep

More than 30 recognized markings have been identified. An excellent review of color and marking genetics in Northern Short-tailed Sheep can be found on the US Primolana Shetlands website. This small selection of pictures shows a few of the markings found in members’ flocks.

Krunet = Dark colored with a white patch on the top of the head.

Smirslet = With white around the mouth head or neck.
Yuglet = Having color around eyes different from remainder of the body.
Bleset/Sneedled = Dark colored with a white stripe (blaze) down the forehead.

Bielset = Having a circular band of a different color round the neck.
Gulmoget = Having light underparts with a dark colored body, white inside the ears and under the jaw.

Katmoget = Having a light colored body with dark belly and legs and a moget face. The reverse of Gulmoget.

Bersugget = Having irregular patches of differing colors.

The Recognized Markings

Bioget = With a white back and darker sides and belly, or vice-versa.

Blaeget = Having a lighter shade on the outer part of the wool fiber, especially in moorit and dark brown sheep.

Blaget = White, with irregular dark patches resembling ground partly snow covered.

Blettet = With white patches on nose and top of head.

Brandet = Having stripes of another color across the body (i.e. going over the back).

Bronget = Dark colored with light colored breast, or vice-versa.

Katmollet = Having light colored nose and jaws.

Kraiget = Having the neck a different color from the rest of the body.

Kranset = Dark colored with white around eyes and head.

Marlit = Various shades of different colors, mottled.

Mirkface = White with dark patches on the face.

Moget-faced = Applied to the characteristic face markings of the Katmoget pattern on sheep not otherwise displaying that pattern.

Mullit = White with dark nose and jaws – the reverse of Katmollet.

Flecket = White with large black or brown patches (not as well defined as in Jacob sheep when in full fleece).

Fronet = Black/brown spotted with white head and black/brown spots around the eyes.

Ilget = White with spots of a different color (usually grey or black).

Iset = Black or shaela with many white fibers, giving a bluish hue from a distance.

Sholmet = Of any color, other than white, with a white face.

Skeget = Stripes of different colors on the sides, not going over the back.

Snaelit = Light colored body with snow-white face.

Sokket = With legs of a different color to the body – giving the effect of wearing socks.

Sponget = Dark colored with small white spots.

Colors and Markings Poster

In 1996 a survey was made of members’ sheep having recognized or other markings. Information was returned as sketches of the location, nature, and color of the sheep’s markings. Our poster shows 63 of the variations sent in. Some of these, e.g. gulmoget, brandet, are particularly uncommon.


The Fleece & FIber Sourcebook