Shetland Sheep, a traditional, hardy breed of the Northern Isles in Scotland
© Martin Zwick/DanitaDelimont.co
Life on the edge
The sight of gambolling lambs on fields across the UK is welcomed here as a sign that winter is finally behind us. Alongside emerging spring flowers, nest building, frogspawn and early bees, those out for a walk in the countryside can also watch lambs on unsteady legs bleating in the sunshine. This particular ewe and lamb perched on the edge of a cliff are Shetland sheep - a small, hardy breed which has survived for centuries in tough conditions here in the Shetland Islands, off the north coast of mainland Scotland.
While they can be farmed for their meat, Shetland sheep are particularly coveted for the quality of their wool, which is very soft and well crimped. The sheep also come in a variety of colours, so the wool does not need to be dyed and lends itself nicely to another Shetland Islands speciality - Fair Isle knitted jumpers. While the breed was classified as endangered by the Rare Breed Survival Trust in 1977, it became a popular breed, including with smallholders on the UK mainland and its numbers have bounced back.