Hirsel Hebrideans

Hirsel

1. Scottish a flock of sheep
2. Scottish the land grazed by a flock of sheep
3. Scottish a large number or quantity multitude
http://www.merriam-webster.com
“The Hebridean sheep is one of the primitive breeds comprising the Northern Short-Tailed group of sheep from northwestern Europe. These sheep are relatively small and fine boned, with black or dark brown wool. The face and legs are largely free of wool and are covered with glossy black hair. Both sexes commonly have two or more horns; but ewes may be polled or scurred and some may carry large woolly topknots.”
http://www.hebrideansheep.org.uk

At the Hirsel, we keep a mix of ‘modern’ HSS (Hebridean Sheep Society) registered  Hebrideans, unregistered ‘ancient’ Hebs, and cross bred Hebs (modern and ancient).  Hebrideans are a ‘primitive’ short-tailed, hardy breed, accustomed to the vagaries of northern Scotland’s weather and terrain. They are perfectly suited for a mixed-terrain Highland farm like the Hirsel.

In the modern strain, Hebrideans are bred for specific traits, including color and physical conformity. You can read more about the breed and HSS standards on their website. The ‘ancient’ strain will have a mix of colors – we have an active breeding line of white females, and many others have grey or reddish wool, harking back to a time when the breed was multi-colored.  We love the various colors of our flock – it matches the various personalities of our sheep! We’ve also found that, at least at the Hirsel, our ancient sheep tend to be larger and more robust – but that might just be due to the size of our tups! We’ve found that crossing a modern with an ancient gives us large, healthy, good looking sheep, so we are experimenting with that, and this is the group makes up the cross-bred portion of our flock.

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Ivory, the first white Heb born at the Hirsel (in 2016) and her first lamb, Blondie. Ivory’s dam had a set of white twins in 2017, sired by Slipperfield Donald, who will go to the tup for the first time this November. So far, the white line, from Greenal (who is black/grey), down to her granddaughter, is holding true. We’ll know for sure we have something really special, if we have another batch of white Heb lambs next spring!

ALL of our sheep have the Hirsel pedigree: if you purchase a sheep from us, we’ll be able to tell you his/her Dam and Sire – in many cases, you’ll be able to meet the parents – as well as receive background medical history and, in most cases, information about personality, too.

Our sheep are handled often, receiving regular foot care and other vet-recommended treatments (never more than absolutely necessary, as we prefer a light-handed approach to meds), as well as regular visits by us, to wherever they’re grazing on the Hirsel. So, while Hebrideans are known for being wild, most of ours – there are a couple of headstrong mamas! – are very manageable. We don’t use dogs for herding, but have ‘bucket trained’ our flock, meaning they come to the shake of a feed bucket, or a simple call, which makes for stress free herding most of the time.  Many of them come to the hand for treats, and some like a bit of grooming. They graze our fields and meadows in the green months – important colleagues in the renovation of our meadows and woods – and are given quality feed and home-grown, pesticide free, fodder in the winter months.  And we treat all of our animals with as much kindness and affection as is practically possible on a farm. Our theory is that market day will be hard for everyone, whether we’re attached or not – but loving them up a little makes life a lot more pleasant and fun for the two-legged, as well as the four-legged, residents of the Hirsel in the meantime.

Donna and our working tups (father and son Aidan & Donald) taking a break. They may look fierce, but – outside of feeding or tupping time – they’re just big softies!

Meet the cast of  characters we live, work and play with on the Hirsel, and keep up with our daily stories by visiting our Facebook page.