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Registered Soay sheep

Frequently Asked Questions about Soay Sheep

1.   Where do Soay Sheep come from?
Soay sheep originate from the 250 acre island of Soay in the St. Kilda archipelago one hundred and ten miles west of Scotland. Since 1932 they  have also lived on St. Kilda's largest island of Hirta. Both populations live feral. All sheep that eventually made their way to North America originated from the Hirta population. read more

2.   What is a British Registered (aka British) Soay?
A British Soay is a Soay sheep born in North American that is registered (birth notified) with the Combined Flock Book of Rare Breeds Survival Trust in England. read more

3.   What is an American Soay (aka North American Soay)?
The American Soay is a hybrid of Soay and a variety of American breeds of sheep. It was originally developed in the US beginning in1985.

 4.  What factors should I keep in mind when taking Soay sheep home? How do I care for Soay sheep?

 5.   How big are Soay sheep? Approximately 24" at the withers, ewes weight about 50-60 lb and rams about 60 to 80 pounds.

6.  What does a Soay sheep look like? 

7.   Do all Soay ewes have horns? What about ram's horns?
Only one third of the ewes on Hirta are horned; the remainder are either polled or scurred. Presently all British Soay ewes are horned. Ram's horns come in a variety of configurations.
read more 

8.   What kind of fencing and shelter do I need?

9.   How long is Soay gestation? 
Approximately 148 days give or take a couple of days (five months) Based on the birth of 32 lambs born via Artificial Insemination where the date of conception was known
gestation was as follows:
147 days- 7 ewes
148 days- 9 ewes
149 days -6 ewes
150 days- 4 ewes
151 days -6 ewes

10. When is breeding Season?  Generally November and December.

11. When is lambing Season?  Generally March through May .However, they can lamb outside the traditional lambing season of March and April and many keepers have experienced "surprise" late lambs, some as late as October and very rarely as early as late January.

12. Do Soay ewes lamb more than once a year?
No, they lamb once a season.

13. Can I make a pet out of a ram lamb?  No, tame rams can be a threat when they mature, castrates (wethers) on the other hand make great pets.

14.  What do I need to know about lambing and lamb care?

15.  Can I vaccinate pregnant ewes?  Yes. We vaccinate about one month before lambing

 Can I worm pregnant ewes?
You can with a wormer that is safe for pregnant ewes such as Ivomec and Panacure. Do not use Valbazen (albendazoe)

17.  How long do Soay sheep live?
On average a Soay ewe lives to be between 9-15 years .  Rams generally have a shorter life span, in the wild six is the average age. In managed flocks they can live to be twelve to fifteen, however that is the exception. Seven to ten is more common.

18.  Do Soay sheep get fly strike?
Yes they do and it can be life threatening.

19.  Do Soay Sheep always shed?
Not always. Very often wethers, some rams and ewes that have not lambed do not shed. The current thinking is that hormones and body condition control shedding. For their comfort in the summer heat and to reduce the threat of fly strike we shear those ourselves (with hand shears or scissors) that have not shed by late June or July. When sheep are hot they eat less and can be thin going into winter, something you can not see happening under a full fleece. Removal of retained wool is very important in areas where fly-strike, a potentially life threatening problem, is prevalent because flies lay their eggs on the skin under the wool where hatching maggots are hidden from view.

20. Are Soay Hair sheep?
Many websites on the Internet wrongly claim that Soay are a hair sheep because they shed their wool someone's definition of a hair sheep. This is not true. Soay are in fact a wool sheep and it is their development of their wool that is an indicator that they are a domestic sheep and not a wild sheep.

21.Are Soay sheep a landrace breed?
Many websites also wrongly claim that Soay sheep are a landrace breed, this is not correct, they are a feral breed.

22.  I have read that Soay can not be worked with sheepdogs.
Not true. Soay can be worked with dogs, but not in the same way that commercial sheep are worked, but they must be taught to understand Soay.  A well trained dog will learn to work the sheep from a distance knowing that once a flock is put under pressure by a dog it will split into separate flocks.



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