How do you pronounce “Ewe” as in a female sheep?

Personally? “Yo”, as in “Yo momma’s so fat…”. That’s how it’s generally pronounced by farming folk in my neck of the woods.

Outside my neck of the woods? “You”.

My way makes more sense of the urgency of “The ewes are in the yews again”, or, indeed, “’Ugh’s been at the ewes again”.

Quora linky.

Do black sheep usually become goats?

Aaaay, whut?

Is this a metaphorical question? If so, it’s generally a bad idea to mix your metaphors. You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead, if you see what I mean.

If you seriously believe that black sheep TURN INTO goats – no. Not even slightly possible.

Taxonomy diagram of Ruminantia, showing sheep and goats as separate species.

They’re different genuses – Ovis (sheep) and Capra (goats) – which means they’re like taxonomic cousins. They can interbreed, but it’s rare, like human cousin-marriage. But a sheep turning into a goat is as likely as you turning into your Cousin Kevin.


Quora linky.

I love wearing wool but I know sheep farming can be a terrible industry. Can anyone suggest ethical wool clothing brands?

What makes you think sheep farming is a “terrible industry”?

Have you spent any time on a sheep farm, or any kind of farm? Even a petting farm? Or are you just spouting nonsense from delusional idiots who know nothing about farming?

If you’re genuinely interested in ethical clothing, forget about “brands”. A lot of the big brands you’ll have heard of may have ethical lines, but quite often they’re not as ethical as they’re cracked up to be. Those who are genuinely ethical are usually very small brands, and can be hard to find because they embrace local marketing – for example, a sheep farmer who shears, spins, and weaves or knits garments for sale in local farmers markets or online, and/or sells wool to handknitters and weavers.

One way in which you could actually make an impact and have some control is to try making your own clothes. You can recycle fabrics and clothing, or buy artisanal fabrics. Here’s a duvet cover dress:

Here’s a puzzle dress you could also make from a duvet cover. Or an old embroidered linen table cloth:

An apron from an old pair of jeans:

and here, by the miracle that is (or was) the Wayback machine, are swants – trousers made from old sweaters:

Of course, you could also learn to knit…

Quora linky.

Why is there always a black sheep in a flock?

Don’t be daft.

These are Manx Loghtans;

They’re all that kind of rusty brown – no other colour.

Herdwick lambs are born almost completely black:

Then turn a bright orangey-brown (their head turn white within weeks of birth):

before finally becoming grey around the time of first shearing:

Shetland sheep are every colour possible:

Coburg Fox sheep – born orange, fades to taupe:

Dryesdale – white only:

Jacob sheep, doin’ their own crazy thang since Methuselah was a lad:

Quora linky.

Was the sheep’s wool used in the original Michael Collins Rug sourced locally in Mayo and why does Foxford Woollen Mills currently mainly use Australian wool?

Foxford Woollen Mills is a weaving mill, producing fabrics, including the fabric for the Garda Síochána uniform. It does not, to my knowledge, prepare and spin woollen yarn.

The company does not provide much information about the original travel rug (car blanket) presented to Gen. Michael Collins, beyond the fact that they used a 4-ply yarn. This is not particularly helpful, as 4-ply yarn today is a very thin yarn that produces a lightweight fabric unsuited to a travel rug. Presumably, the yarn they used was made up of 4 thick strands, plied together to create a rug yarn, closer to an Aran- or Bulky-weight knitting yarn.

While they do not reveal the source for their weaving yarn for Gen. Collins’ rug, given the period, it is likely that it was sourced from a spinning mill in Ireland, possibly but not necessarily in Co Mayo; and that that spinning mill purchased fleece from Irish sources, possibly but not necessarily locally.

Historically, sheep breeds in Ireland were mixed-use – farmed for wool and meat*. With the exception of a couple of breeds, the wool produced was often of relatively poor quality, too rough for anything but outerwear** or carpeting. There was nonetheless a thriving woollen spinning and weaving industry across Ireland, with mills in many towns, particularly market towns where animal marts took place. In Donegal, there was hardly a settlement of any size without a mill. Virtually everybody had a Donegal tweed suit, purchased as a wedding outfit, worn as Sunday best for decades – often picked apart and re-fashioned according to trends – until they were finally buried in it.

My grandparents in their tweed wedding suits, 1924.

This industry was decimated by the mid-20th century. Petroleum-based yarns destroyed the wool-spinning industry, cheap imports from the far east destroyed the knitwear and weaving industry, trends in agriculture towards specialised farming and a lack of political support for the industry meant that, from the 1960s on, these small local mills disappeared. Today, only 3 of these historic spinning mills survive: Donegal Yarns in Kilcar, Co Donegal; Kerry Woollen Mills in Killarney; and Cushendale Woollen Mills in Graignamanagh, Co Kilkenny. The latter two survived by amalgamating weaving and woollen products into their operation, Donegal Yarns through relationships with weaving mills and with international yarn brands such as Debbie Bliss and Lang Yarns.

Generally, weaving mills did better than spinning mills, partly due to the worldwide cachet of Irish tweed and carpeting, and there are still quite a few like Foxford around. But most sheep in Ireland are meat sheep, there’s no marketing support for shorn wool, so there’s virtually no Irish fleece for the spinning mills, and therefore virtually no Irish-grown yarn for the Irish weaving mills. Almost all the wool dyed and spun in Donegal Yarns comes from Australia, via a cleaning operation in Bradford, England.

And that is why Foxford Mills uses Australian wool: because it exists, and Irish wool (almost***) doesn’t.

*: I’m not aware of milk breeds being of much importance until recently.

**: Aran sweaters, while a 20th-century innovation, were outerwear, worn over a good flannel shirt.

***: There are some small-scale efforts to use Irish fleece – Donegal Yarns is working on a range using Wicklow Cheviot fleece, Cushendale Mills processes Irish Zwartble fleece, and Kerry Woollen Mills adds lowland Galway fleece to imported fleece. There’s also a new mini-mill in Cavan, Olann, which will spin small quantities of fleece (the others only accept commercial quantities in tons) which will likely appeal to hobby and rare-breed farmers with only kilos to process; but this won’t supply a large concern like Foxford Mills.

Quora linky.

Why don’t goats produce wool the way sheep do?

Strictly speaking?

Because goats produce their own spinnable fibre – notably the Cashmere goat breeds and the Angora goat, which produce cashmere and mohair respectively. Yes, mohair – not angora, which is produced by the Angora rabbit.

Historically, or rather paleoagriculturally, sheep appear to have been bred primarily for their wool, whereas goats seem to have been bred primarily for milk, although there are such things as milk sheep and, clearly, fibre goats. I can only hazard a guess that the primitive sheep domesticated by our ancestors must have produced more fibre than goats did*, and/or that primitive domesticated goats had more milk or were easier to milk than sheep

Milk goat

Milk sheep.

Yep, definitely easier to milk the goat.

* – The Jacob sheep, a relatively primitive breed, produces about 2–3kg fleece, whereas (modern) Cashmere goats produce only 1kg.

Quora linky.

What is the reason that when sheep are shorn, three of their legs are tied and one is left free?

I don’t know, What IS the reason that when sheep are sheared, three of their legs are tied and one is left free?

Oh, it wasn’t a joke? Oh well.

I’ve never, ever seen a sheep tied up for shearing. Ever. In 53 years. When you’re shearing a couple of thousand semi-feral fuzz balls, you don’t have time to indulge in a bit of S&M.

Not judging, though. You do you.

Quora linky.

Why hasn’t science introduced Angora goat genes into sheep to produce better wool?

There’s not much point.

Angora goat fibre, aka mohair, has its own qualities. It’s primarily used for making suits as it’s quite hardy, but it’s not usually suitable for next-to-skin garments.

Meanwhile, in the sheep world, there’s a humongous range of qualities. Merino and Blue-faced Leicester for under-clothing and babywear, Wensleydale for silk-like, drapey clothing, Icelandic for sturdy cold-weather outerwear, Shetland for lightweight but warm socks and sweaters, Scottish Blackfaced for carpetting, through to mixed-breed meat-sheep’s scraggly fleece that’s only good for house insulation or composting.

Goat genes would add nothing that isn’t already available in one or other sheep breed.

Quora linky.

How much wool do you get from shearing one sheep?

It depends on the breed. Some breeds have none at all, others can produce as much as 4–6kg of fleece.

However, the process of turning fleece into wool for making fabrics is lossy: generally, only about 50% of a fleece by weight gets made into wool.

Quora linky.

How many different names are there for a sheep?

Let’s see…

Hector, Angus, Florrie, Noreen, Tillie, Dandelion, Gerda, Millie, Antoinette, Upsy Daisy, Thora, Rosie, Ethel, Dorothy, Bunty, Barb Wire Betty, Casserole, Plum Duff, Mint Sauce, and Wee Shughie.

At least, that’s the names of the sheep next door.

Barb Wire Betty. She’s actually a WHITE sheep.
Antoinette and Upsy Daisy.
Noreen and Florrie stopping by for a wee cuppa hay.

Quora linky.

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