The Great Soay Road Trip

My awesome friend Andrea is switching her ruminant herd over from dairy goats to fiber sheep and discovered that there was a really cool Neolithic sheep breed, Soay Sheep, still in existence and available from a farm a few hours away. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, she and I road tripped to the farm to pick up the nucleus of her new herd. Let me tell you, the rural Piedmont is really pretty during a wet summer, if direly humid. We sadly couldn’t find the Tank Museum we passed signs for but that’s okay because it gave us lots of time to visit the farm the evening before pick-up to sort out sheep and pick which ones were going home with us.

When we arrived, we first got to meet the owner’s majestic floofs (AKA Samoyed dogs). They were a lovely pink thanks to the marvelous red dirt of North Carolina.

3 white Samoyed dogs on a lawn

Then we got to meet the rams.

Four small dark brown rams with tightly curled horns clustered in a fenced corner

The boys were separated out so we could see how they looked and to make it easier to catch out the ram we were taking home. The ram we ended up taking home, Ferrington, is in the far left corner. He’s a bit smaller than the other rams, but not by much. These are small sheep in general, smaller than Greta. When it came time to snag them for travel, the adolescent lambs were light enough to pick up and carry to the truck, so 20-30 pounds I’d guess.

The lambs were pretty sure we were horrible sheep eaters.

a tight group of dark brown lambs all facing the same direction and looking over their shoulders at the same thing

the flock of lambs moving in the same direction out of a corner away from a person

3 lambs less tightly cluster and facing the camera.

Since the sheep were pretty skittish around people, we had to be clever to get Ferrington separated out without the use of a dog. We moved the big boys over to the herd of adolescent lambs that had been penned in an adjacent enclosure. Then Andrea tried to give me sheepdog instructions to help move the sheep. I am not as smart as a sheepdog, it turns out. However, thanks to thumbs, I managed to slam the gate closed between two pens in order to prevent Ferrington from peeling off the lamb herd with the other rams. Boy was he surprised when he smacked into that gate! Bipedal superiority!

Here he is with a pair of lambs. He’s good at posing.

Ferrington and two Lambs facing the camera

Ferrington. A dark brown ram with almost black chest and head and pale tan patches around his eyes. His horns wrap about 270 degrees around from their starting point and come in close to his jaw.

Ferrington. Same as above but with head turned to the left for a fine profile.

The next day we loaded sheep in the car for the ride home. We took home Ferrington, two ewe lambs, and two wethers (neutered males). They were bedded down with food and water in the back of the truck and pretty much just chilled for the five hour ride. No complaining, even on the one or two occasions where we had to hit the brakes hard. Apparently goats are much worse in the car. Andrea claims it’s because of the free preaching and bluegrass cd we picked up at a truck stop. They also liked Willie Nelson.

Lambs and Ram lying in the back of an SUV

lamb extremely close up to the camera with lambs laying down in the background.
My hands weren’t interesting to check out, but my camera was to this lamb.

The sheep were delivered safely and introduced to the goat herd with little incident. The goats are a bit horrified by them, but they’ll get over it. The resident sheep are very happy to have other sheep around.

Here you can see relative sizes of Soay sheep and dairy goats of various heritage.

a bunch of dairy goats of various sizes around the small Soay sheep

A very successful trip!

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