Soray Sheep

Soay sheep are named for the place from where they descended, the small island of Soay in the St. Kilda Archipelago about 40 miles (65 miles) from the Western Isles of Scotland. This particular species of sheep which are significantly smaller than all other modern domesticated sheep, closely resemble the primitive sheep who lived during the Bronze Age. They are significantly smaller than all modern domesticated sheep, weighing only 55 to 65 pounds on average, but more resilient and a great deal more agile, being known to take refuge amongst cliffs when frightened.    

In appearance, Soay sheep are similar in looks to small antelope or deer, however they have fleece and shed their wool in the Spring. Their fleece can be blonde, black, or varying shades of brown in color and they have short tails. Most all Soay sheep have light markings on their belly, under their tail, on their rump and jaw, some also have white facial markings. They are known for being shy, aloof, curious, wary, and graceful in nature. Soay rams grow beautiful, full curl horns along with a full mane or bib of longer, darker hair that makes them stand out and appear nearly elegant. Wethers (castrated males) develop horns that correlate with the age at which they were neutered. Ewes sometimes have horns as well, however they are less prominent and are known as scurs.   

The largest number of Soray sheep can presently be found on the small island of Hirta, near Soray, another island of the St. Kilda Archipelago. There are a few of these sheep still on the island of Soray, however many were moved over to Hirta in 1932 when humans were evacuated from Soray. Many farmers and ranches in Europe, North America, and other areas of the world also have their own herds of Soray sheep as they are relatively easy to care for as they require very minimal hoof care, do not require tail docking or shearing, resist disease well, and lamb easily. They are also attractive with their deerlike appearance and generally attract a lot of attention from passers-by. In addition, their wool, in its natural variety of colors, can easily be spun to produce soft yarn that does not need to be dyed. As an added bonus, soray meat is of excellent quality and is very mild and low in cholesterol, similar to elk meat. It is not widely available so is fairly high in demand, making it easy for owners to profit from their investment in the sheep.