Tales of Silver Lambs: Naturally Colored Sheep
Sheep have always been a part of my life, and I’ve worked with several flocks over the years: big sheep and small sheep, horned sheep and polled (hornless) sheep, longwools and medium wools. The one thing these woolly friends have always had in common is white wool.
Lambing is a bit different this year…
I purchased a natural-color Border Leicester ram lamb last summer from a well-known flock in Michigan. You can see handsome young Thomas in this story from the fall. Several different genes determine color in sheep, with white being the dominant trait. So, I steeled myself to not expect black or silver lambs until Thomas had been a part of the flock for a while. As it turned out, I didn’t have long to wait. Twin sisters Retty and Marian lambed within a few hours of one another, both having twins. Remarkably, each set of twins has one silver lamb and one silver lamb with a blaze on its nose.
What is silver? Natural-color longwool sheep often have a variation of grays from nose to tail, which tends to lighten as the animal ages. As you can see, the little curly tips on this lamb’s fleece are jet, but the already-growing locks are beautiful variegated silver.
Lambing season is always a bit like being on a roller coaster. Once it starts, you’re committed to the highs, lows, and sharp turns that will leave you stunned and disheveled by the end of the ride. However, walking out under the stars at 3 a.m. to be present at the birth of a new life is a vital and electric experience. Back to the barn I go.