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Shetlands are a minor, British breed belonging to the northern European short-tailed group.  It is believed they are of Scandinavian origin and that Vikings may have brought them to the Shetland Islands of Scotland over 1000 years ago.  For years the sheep evolved in relative isolation in the harsh habitat of these Islands.  Shetland sheep have a rich history of natural and/or human selection (more information can be found by reading 'The Sheep of Shetland A Historical Perspective found at http:www.shetland-sheep.org.

Present day Shetlands still retain many of their primitive or 'unimproved' characteristics--small, hardy, agile, long-lived, easy lambing with strong maternal instincts.  Ewes usually are hornless, and the rams generally have beautiful spiral horns.  Their tails are short and fluke shaped and do not require docking.  Shetlands tend to be late fall breeders.  First time lambers usually produce a single lamb, but twins are common among older ewes. Their beautiful fine wool in a rainbow of natural colors made the Shetland woolen industry world-renowned.

In 1927 the Shetland Flock Book Society of Shetland was formed to protect the purebred Shetland sheep from the influence of crossbreeding, and the Society developed a breed standard for registration.  This same standard was later adopted by the Shetland Sheep Breeders Group in Great Britain and again by the North American Shetland Sheepbreeders' Association.

Three moorit-colored ewes and one ram were imported into Canada in 1948 (the Flett importation).  The main import of Shetlands into North America occurred in 1980 when a small flock of 28 ewes and 4 rams was imported from the Shetland Islands to Canada (the Dailley importation).  These sheep were required to spend their life quarantined on the Dailley farm.  In 1986, offspring could be sold after a five-year quarantine period; and Shetlands began to make their way into the United States.

Shetland eweShetland lambs
Shetland ram

We purchased our first breeding trio (descendents of the Dailley 1980 importation) in 1990 when they were still quite rare and hard to find.  The following year we bought an additional ram and ewe.  Over the years we added some new blood lines, bringing in Shetlands from flocks in Virginia, Vermont, Oregon, Oklahoma, etc.  The flock size eventually grew to about 55 Shetlands.

In 1997 the USDA granted a permit for the importation of semen from Britain.  We took advantage of the wonderful opportunity to broaden the genetic base and improve our wool quality by purchasing straws of semen from eleven different high-quality rams from Britain.

Time has marched on, and we have retired from sheep breeding.  The 40+ sheep remain here on our farm as my personal flock and wool producers.  Sheep raising has given me many great memories and friendships.  I thank all my sheep, past and present, for sharing their lives with me.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.