Do wild sheep exist anymore?

Oh yes.

The St Kilda archipelago was evacuated in 1930, leaving two varieties of primitive sheep behind. A small Neolithic breed on Soay island, and an Iron Age type on the island of Boreray, they became feral in the absence of humans, and have only recently been re-introduced as domestic sheep out of concern for their rarity. Both are extremely low-maintenance: the naturally shed their fleece, lamb easily, and are immune (or at least not prone) to many of the common diseases of domestic sheep, such as foot rot and flystrike. They are becoming very popular with small-holders and people looking for cheap lawnmowers.

Boreray ram, standing approximately 55cm, with the usual pale cream fleece (other colours are rare). Originally raised for mutton and wool, its fleece is in demand from fibre crafters despite often being rather coarse.

From Pinterest: Soay sheep in the dark brown, light brown, and blonde colours. Black is also common, white is rare, and some piebalds occur too. They can reach 60cm at the shoulder. The fleece is very soft, but quite short.

On another Scottish island, North Ronaldsay in the Orkneys, lives another feral sheep from the Iron Age: the seaweed eating North Ronaldsay. I’m told the meat is orgasmically delicious, because of this diet, but have not the funds to investigate. They have probably the biggest range of natural colours, from a pure white, creamy yellow, light and dark shades of grey and brown, black,

From Country Life. If my Photoshop skills were any good (and I could afford Photoshop), I’d change the seaweed to intestines and use this pic for the cover of my book about zombie sheep of the apocalypse…

and, unusually, a red (right):

At Carlinskerry B&B, Orkney. North Ronaldsay sheep are only 40cm tall, and OMG THEY’RE SO DINKY I’LL TAKE A DOZEN*!!!


These are the wild sheep I’m most familiar with. There are others, but most are hair sheep so I find them less interesting. These sheep in goats’ clothing include the American Bighorn, the Siberian Snow Sheep, the Argali, the UrialDall sheep, the Mouflon, and their numerous subspecies.


* – When I retire by the sea. They eat very little apart from seaweed.

Originally appeared on Quora.