What Does the Sheep Say?


A Manx Loaghtan sheep looking impressive. Photograph courtesy of the Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders’ Group.

We all know that sheep say “baaaa.” If we didn’t, a lot of puns would become incomprehensible, leading to marketing problems across the world of yarn and fibers. Writers would have to work with “ewe,” causing overexposure and aggravation. Plus a sound sometimes associated with ickiness has limited potential. Thank goodness for “baaaa.”

Other sheep-related sounds, such as breed names, can greatly expand our punnability. I for one find that clever names often influence my purchases of paint, yarn colorways, and candle scents, as well as fiber purchases. Who wouldn’t want to buy fleece from a Babydoll (aka Southdown), Dorper, or Zwartbles?

Primitive and rare breeds often have the greatest names, due to the longevity of their genetic lines. One of my favorite articles in the Fall 2015 issue of Knitting Traditions discusses four primitive breeds, all with delightful monikers. Deborah Robson introduces us to the Navajo-Churro, who make me think of fried dough dipped in cinnamon sugar (mmmmm); the American Tunis, with ancient roots in northern Africa; the Leicester Longwool, a prolific wool-producer with an adorable face; and my most-favorite sheep-name ever, the Manx Loaghtan from the Isle of Man.

Their beautiful wool in shades of brown reminds me of Manx tabby cats. Unlike their feline counterparts, these sheep do have tails. They also usually have horns–sometimes as many as six. But it’s the name that simultaneously attracts and puzzles me: how do you say it? Naturally, I turned to the experts. When the Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders’ Group shared their photos with us, I asked for an official ruling on pronunciation. Apparently this request created some discussion at the MLSBG meeting, because as my contact put it in an email, “I have heard Lofftun, Lufftan, Lochtun, even Longtun.” Ultimately, MLSBG agreed upon Manks Locktun, while acknowledging variations across the UK and the Isle of Man. You can hear this pronunciation on our website.

While you’re listening, explore this issue’s table of contents: delightful articles on historical and contemporary knitters, beautiful knitting projects (including Ann Budd’s beautiful socks made from Manx Loaghtan yarn) and a collection of vintage edgings and pattern swatches. We hope you’ll enjoy this trip into the past as you read and create.