Boreray

Boreray sheep

Key Characteristics

The Boreray is a very hardy breed and will do well on sparse grazing and is able to cope with most conditions. Anecdotal evidence suggests a high level of resistance to foot rot and flystrike.  The breed is long lived, with ewes often lambing into their teens. The average lambing percentage of lowland flocks is around 140% (meaning each ewe averages 1.4 lambs a year) however in the feral flocks the average is less. The breed experiences very few lambing problems and lambs are small and lively. The breed can shed its fleece although not all animals do so.

History

  • The Boreray is found mainly on Boreray Island in the St. Kilda group.
  • The breed originated in the late 19th century from a cross between the Blackface and a variety of the old Scottish tan-faced group.
  • When the inhabitants of St. Kilda were evacuated in 1930 the sheep were left on the island of Boreray and have existed as a feral flock ever since.
  • In the 1970s a small group of six animals was brought over to the mainland but the mainland population is very small.

Appearance

  • A primitive breed of sheep, the Boreray is a small, slender animal.
  • The Boreray is a small breed. Ewes weigh around 30kg and rams 45kg.
  • Most sheep have a cream fleece with grey or black and white face and legs. They can have a darker area of wool on the rump.
  • Occasionally fleeces can be grey or dark brown.
  • Rams frequently have a heavy dark “collar” around their necks.
  • Both sexes are horned with rams having heavy, spiralled horns. 

Uses

Conservation Grazing

The Boreray’s extreme hardiness makes it a useful breed for some grazing sites where other sheep would struggle. However numbers are very low so this market hasn’t been fully exploited.

Meat

The Boreray has an excellent flavour and in common with most primitive breeds is generally slaughtered as hogget or mutton for a bigger carcass. With such a small population there is little evidence of any crossbreeding programmes using Borerays.

Wool

Staple length- 10-15 cm. Fleece weight- 1.25kg.

Did you know?

The Boreray is unique as the only remaining descendant of the now extinct, Scottish Tan Face breed.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is the leading national charity working to conserve and protect the United Kingdom's rare native breeds of farm animals from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants and donations from the public to raise the £700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare UK native breeds of farm animals. Visit www.rbst.org.uk to see how you can help.

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