Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A rose by any other name...

If Shakespeare had enjoyed Shetland sheep as much as he did roses, would he have written, "A fawn (or musket) by any other name would be as beautiful"?

These wonderful little sheep come in such a variety of colors, shades, patterns and spotting that it is no wonder that consensus has not been reached on how to label them. Yet label them we try, because we want to be able to better predict the outcome when breeding them.

Here I must insert my caveat. I have a very small flock of Shetlands, and I haven't had them all that long. My experience is limited and always will be because of the size of my facilities. I have tried to learn as much as possible at the feet of other, more experienced breeders, at the shows and on their farms, from their websites and on their blogs, and am still learning. Since genetics is not an exact science, and will never be 100% predictable, there will always be more to learn, with surprises along the way.

With that in mind, I have recently taken photos of my (so-called) musket, grey and fawn sheep. These colors are often confusing because they can change dramatically from birth to adulthood - and even seasonally! I will present them as "exhibits" in following posts.

As a teaser, below are close-ups from my two moorit wethers. From any distance, their fleeces (along with little Bevin's) look indistinguishable from one another - they all look like dark moorit lambs. But as you can see when you part their fleeces, they look quite different at skin level. One is bittersweet chocolate, the other two are milk chocolate (captured as best I can with flash). No signs of Ag, no lightening at the skin; these lambs are all look moorit. But the milk chocolate lambs' dam lightened dramatically after lambhood - is she fawn? Are her lambs really moorit? Their gums and tongue may provide a clue; the darker lamb's are dusky while the milk chocolate lambs' are pinker.
Stay tuned for more from . . .

4 comments:

Carol Bator said...

Your lighter colored lamb certainly could be a modified color such as fawn or mioget. Lambs are such amazing creatures. They do change dramatically in the first 3 months of their lives. And then they continue changing at a slower rate for the rest of that first year. After a year, you kind of know what you have got, but then their lambs can surprise you too!

Amy said...

Nice fleece;)

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

makes you want to just dive right in...

Garrett808 said...

Wow that second one sure seems like a fawn or mioget to me! I've seen some lambs born mioget or fawn and stay that color. Other lines I've seen be born moorit and slowly fade to a different color (fawn or mioget), some not turning until after their first shearing, some showing a definite break in the fiber (new color versus old) during their first summer! Isn't it fun!? They always keep us guessing!