Jane Cooper established her breeding flock of Borerays with sheep gathered from three tiny flocks in the Highlands. In 2017, she discovered that this meant she was custodian of the last remnants of the ‘Lost Flock’ of Boreray sheep which represented a genetically unique sub-group of the breed.

Boreray sheep descend from a North Atlantic short-tailed sheep, originally brought to Europe by Neolithic farmers thousands of years ago. These sheep were considered important to the Vikings, due to their double-coated fleece which was durable and highly waterproof, used to create sails for longships and clothing that could withstand the elements.

By the late 18th/early 19th century, the descendants of these sheep, the Scottish Dunface, were essential for clothing, meat and dairy in the Highlands. These Scottish Dunface arrived on the remote Hebridean islands of St Kilda and later in the 19th century, Hebridean Blackface rams were introduced to St Kilda; today’s Boreray sheep are thought to be the direct descendants of the extinct Scottish Dunface, with the likely infusion of Hebridean Blackface.

In August 1930, at their own request, the final 36 inhabitants of St Kilda were evacuated, but an isolated flock of sheep on Boreray Island were left behind and continued to live in solitude for over 40 years until a small number were taken off the island in 1971 by the Animal Breeds Research Organisation (ABRO), now the Roslin Institute. The sheep were bred by ABRO for research and once established, the flock was split into four breeding groups. One group went to Martha Crawford, then living in the Highlands, and then on to Bob and Ann Cook in Assynt, who were the original owners of the sheep acquired by Jane Cooper. Although the Cooks had kept meticulous records for many years, the sheep had never been registered with the Combined Flock Book (CFB).

Records and research suggested that these sheep come from a completely separate line to other mainland sheep and in 2017 this isolated flock was brought back into the fold with inclusion in the supplementary register of the CFB.