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Author Topic: hebridean - white  (Read 9012 times)

namethatsheep

  • Joined Jul 2015
hebridean - white
« on: April 02, 2018, 03:34:29 pm »
Earlier this year I obtained a copy of An Enquiry into the Origin of Piebald or 'Jacob' sheep  by A. R. Werner (Countryside Livestock Ltd 1988) in which the author reproduces, at Plate 7, a photograph from Richard Lydekker's The Sheep and its Cousins  (George Allen, 1912) showing a polycerate (multi-honed) white Hebridean ram from North Uist.

 Intrigued about whether white Hebs still persisted to this day I was disappointed to read on the web that Wester Gladstone flock lost its white heb late last year (http://www.scothebs.co.uk/) and that this individual was probably the last white Heb in existence.

Though I fully understand the reasoning, it is nonetheless a little sad that the modern standard for 'fixing' the Heb breed does not include at least a sub-section for non-black registered Hebs.  With the loss of the last white Heb a little of our agricultural heritage (and genetic diversity has gone).  Perhaps it is time to save, for example, Hebs with top knots - with a sub-section - before they too disappear. I must admit I did find the Wester Gladstone webpages uplifting in respect of what they are doing to preserve the variety within the breed.

I don't keep Hebs, so apologies for these random and, perhaps, ill-informed musings.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2018, 06:19:35 pm »
Thank you, namethatsheep. I had not heard of the white tup on N. Uist - I must find out more.


Yes it was sad when Blondie died but she was 20 years old so had really done her bit. There has always been the question of whether she was truly a purebred white Hebridean or a cross, but as she came from one of the original white flocks, we like to think she was the real thing.


 When we joined the Hebridean Sheep Society back in 1996, there were 3 flocks of white Hebs, but the Society refused to see them as genuine, claiming the genetics were impossible, so they were not registerable.  When the breed was under the care of the RBST the whites were, I believe, recognised as a sub-division of the breed. What an irony that now we have the possibility of mapping their actual genome, there are no whites left.


As you say, we are fighting hard to preserve multi-horned, top knotted, scurred, polled and all Ancient Type Hebs. Given the EU rules that the HSS is the only society legally to represent the breed, it is unlikely we could have a full blown schism, but we do want them to be recognised as an important part of the breed heritage.  There are now quite a few flocks around the country which either specialise in the Ancient Type, or have at least some as part of their flock, so as long as their significance can be acknowledged, that is the first step.


In this year's HSS Yearbook, just out, I have had an article published trying to make the point of the importance of these old types, and of having at least a small number in many flocks.
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

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Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2018, 11:48:02 am »
As an aside to this, did you know that there are four horned Shetlands?  Just tups, as the ewes are polled.  I suppose it dates back to before the 1927 breed standard, so they have been even more heavily selected against and for longer than white Hebs.  Four horned Shetlands do pop up occasionally though, even now.
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2018, 01:00:45 pm »
The Southdown Sheep Society got a drains-up bloodline exercise done across all the registered animals last year, due to pressure from a number of keepers (including me) who felt that the recently imported French bloodlines (with far less stringent registration procedures) were taking the breed too far from its original conformation specifications.  The results were fascinating and pointed to considerable imports of Antipodean bloodlines in the last century as well as an earlier importation of French blood.  I feel the current drive by some breeders to "improve" the breed by selecting for leggier animals for the showring or to compete with the Charollais and Vendeen imports as terminal sires may have its place in commercial circles but I don't want the genetic diversity or characteristics of the traditional Southdown to be lost in the process.

Nelson International

  • Joined Aug 2017
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2018, 02:07:09 pm »
That’s very interesting MF. At the risk of taking this thread miles off topic, I’m quite interested in the history of different breeds, and in particular the extent to which there’s been ‘drift’ in them.

Here’s a picture of some French South Downs from the middle of the 19th century:
http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/56317/adrien-alban-tournachon-moutons-south-down-french-1856-1860/

Black Sheep

  • Joined Sep 2015
  • Briercliffe
    • Monk Hall Farm
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2018, 02:07:33 pm »
As you say, we are fighting hard to preserve multi-horned, top knotted, scurred, polled and all Ancient Type Hebs.

In this year's HSS Yearbook, just out, I have had an article published trying to make the point of the importance of these old types, and of having at least a small number in many flocks.

I read your article with interest and would be interested in getting a better understanding of what the characteristics are of the ancient type and what advantages this brings. We have a very new flock but one ewe is very silvery grey all over and several of the others have silvery areas, e.g. on their haunches. We'll need to consider some of this when it comes to selecting a tup later in the year.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2018, 10:56:22 pm »
The Southdown Sheep Society got a drains-up bloodline exercise done across all the registered animals last year, due to pressure from a number of keepers (including me) who felt that the recently imported French bloodlines (with far less stringent registration procedures) were taking the breed too far from its original conformation specifications.  The results were fascinating and pointed to considerable imports of Antipodean bloodlines in the last century as well as an earlier importation of French blood.  I feel the current drive by some breeders to "improve" the breed by selecting for leggier animals for the showring or to compete with the Charollais and Vendeen imports as terminal sires may have its place in commercial circles but I don't want the genetic diversity or characteristics of the traditional Southdown to be lost in the process.


The way I see it is that, at the time a breed's characteristics were 'set', maybe with the writing of a breed standard, the breed was well suited to the conditions and needs of the time.  I see no harm in modifying or crossbreeding the breed to suit current needs and conditions, so long as the original type is preserved.  We often quote the reasons for maintaining rare breeds as being to have their special and varied genetics available to cross with other breeds and make a new type appropriate to 'the future'.  This is fine, again as long as the original type is also preserved.
My concern with Hebrideans is that no-one seemed to have noticed the show bias which has occurred, and for some people they actually want to deliberately eliminate the Ancient Type.  It is the same with many breeds, and the drift is often to do with the pull of showing, or with trying to return a previously popular breed to commercial use.
I see no problem with breed solcieties running ancient/original type registers alongside modern types.
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2018, 11:37:03 pm »
As you say, we are fighting hard to preserve multi-horned, top knotted, scurred, polled and all Ancient Type Hebs.

In this year's HSS Yearbook, just out, I have had an article published trying to make the point of the importance of these old types, and of having at least a small number in many flocks.

I read your article with interest and would be interested in getting a better understanding of what the characteristics are of the ancient type and what advantages this brings. We have a very new flock but one ewe is very silvery grey all over and several of the others have silvery areas, e.g. on their haunches. We'll need to consider some of this when it comes to selecting a tup later in the year.


The evidence we have of Hebrideans looking very different today compared with when they first appeared as a breed, is the Storr's Hall flock photo, printed in the article in the HSS yearbook, of an early flock which had been brought down from the Hebrides, black individuals selected from a previously multi-coloured breed (possibly where the whites throw back to).  Today, photos of modern Hebs show uniformly black, 2 horned sheep.  They are very smart and eyecatching and as many breeders like to show their animals, this is their goal.  The Storr's Hall picture shows some very different animals.  Only one is two horned, the rest having four horns, or scurs, or topknots.  They have big bulky fleeces, in various shades, with some having the 'silver mantle' appearance you refer to.  This is where the sheep is very black on the face, the chest, belly, legs and tail/rump area, but with the long hairs of the body a silver, which looks like a horse blanket has been draped over them.  This is a definite colour pattern for the breed and is different from the patches of gray, which are to do with normal ageing and sometimes with a problem with copper absorption due to molybdenum in the soil.


So the Ancient Type is largely multihorned/polled/scurred/topknotted, but may include two horned specimens.  The fleece may be black (or in fact very dark chocolate brown) or a variety of shades of fawn and grey, and about 7" long for the top coat, 3" for the undercoat (the length and the fleece type remains the same for the modern type) The fleece must be double layered, with bulk and bounce to shed water.
Many Hebs start to fade as they get past about 2 yo, but this does not make them Ancient Type.  I have noticed that the blackest fleeces tend to go grey earlier than more varied colours, which may be one reason that few older sheep are shown, although there are show classes for older Hebs.
The vast majority of Hebs are two horned - about 90% compared to 40% in the 1970s, but there are multihorned modern types which have been bred to do well in the show ring - they seem to differ in conformation from the Ancient Type, being more like a modern type sheep but with four horns rather than 2.  Ancient Type multihorned Hebs tend to be a bit longer in the leg and neck than the Modern Type.
The closest we can get to choosing Ancient Type sheep is to look at their ancestry.  Without knowing the genome we can only look at the breeders and their showing history, or use of show winning stock in their flocks.  There are a few flocks around which have been unaffected by showing, many of whom have maintained a virtually closed flock, and their sheep are the closest we can find to the Ancient Type.  What we are not looking for is just scruffy versions of the Modern Type, so it's knowing both the Phenotype (what they look like) and the Genotype (their genetic make-up) which are equally important in recognising and identifying Ancient Type Hebs.  Parallel registers for Ancient and Modern would help to preserve the two types separately.


You ask what the advantages are of the Ancient Type.  There is probably nothing which makes them intrinsically better sheep than Modern ones, in fact they are all great little animals.  The reason to keeep at least some Ancient Type Hebs is to maintain the genetics 'for the future', for when farming needs, climate change and customer demand need these genes to help develop new breeds with newly desirable characteristics, such as the abiility to lamb easily and independently, to be milky and be able to raise twins, to go on breeding for many years, to keep their teeth and to have good feet - all these qualities help to reduce shepherd input and increase survival in a time of change in our climate and economic situation. Of course 'the future' is tomorrow, so we are already, as with many breeds, experimenting with crossbreeding to develop Heb crosses which are commercially viable.  As long as we maintain those original qualities, any number of crosses can also be made.  So the benefits of keeping the Ancient Type of Heb, and of many other older breeds, is for the conservation of their genetics.
One effect of showing is that show winning tups become very desirable and a quick flick through the Flock Book will show the preponderance of certain flocks as the source of many flock's breeding stock.  This effectively creates a man-made genetic bottle neck, so we can surmise that the genetic diversity of Modern Type Hebs is less, therefore less useful as a living gene bank, than the Ancient Type which has been less selected.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2018, 11:45:58 pm by Fleecewife »
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Black Sheep

  • Joined Sep 2015
  • Briercliffe
    • Monk Hall Farm
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2018, 11:06:53 pm »
They have big bulky fleeces, in various shades, with some having the 'silver mantle' appearance you refer to.  This is where the sheep is very black on the face, the chest, belly, legs and tail/rump area, but with the long hairs of the body a silver, which looks like a horse blanket has been draped over them.  This is a definite colour pattern for the breed and is different from the patches of gray, which are to do with normal ageing and sometimes with a problem with copper absorption due to molybdenum in the soil.

Many Hebs start to fade as they get past about 2 yo, but this does not make them Ancient Type.

All ours are 2-3 years old, so whilst some of them may be developing some grey the one that is very grey would have had to fade very early. I've attached some pictures of her, which seem to show the pattern you describe. Incidentally she delivered a lovely pair of twins yesterday afternoon :-)

Quote
The closest we can get to choosing Ancient Type sheep is to look at their ancestry.  Without knowing the genome we can only look at the breeders and their showing history, or use of show winning stock in their flocks. 

This makes sense and is useful, but knowing which flocks have more ancient type sheep is more than just ones that don't appear in the show results or seem to have used stock from those - the show sheep seem to come from a small number of flocks, which suggests to me that a small proportion of owners show to begin with. Maybe the HSS/yearbook could identify flocks that are looking to preserve the ancient type.

Quote
So the benefits of keeping the Ancient Type of Heb, and of many other older breeds, is for the conservation of their genetics.

One effect of showing is that show winning tups become very desirable and a quick flick through the Flock Book will show the preponderance of certain flocks as the source of many flock's breeding stock.  This effectively creates a man-made genetic bottle neck, so we can surmise that the genetic diversity of Modern Type Hebs is less, therefore less useful as a living gene bank, than the Ancient Type which has been less selected.

Yes, and for many of us, ourselves included, an element of our decision of what breeds to keep is driven by maintaining rare/native breeds. Preserving genetic diversity is an important part of that.

Thanks for taking the time to reply :-)

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2018, 11:56:23 pm »
<< Maybe the HSS/yearbook could identify flocks that are looking to preserve the ancient type.>>

It's early days Black Sheep - we have yet to get the committee to agree that there is an Ancient Type, and that its conservation is important, although there are stirrings of interest.  It is also difficult to prove which sheep are truly Ancient Type, ie rich in genetic diversity, without a whole load of research.

Without the permission of individuals I cannot print here the names of flocks which keep and support the Ancient Type, although some are on board and keen to spread the word.


You are right and I expressed myself badly about how to identify flocks with Ancient Type sheep.  In fact some flocks keep both show stock and Ancient type as tandem flocks, so I suppose what I really mean to say is that once individual sheep are flagged up as possibly being Ancient Type, then we would need to look back for several generations through their pedigrees.

Yes, I would say that your ewe has a silver mantle.  She is also sporting a wonderful chest wig, which is another primitive trait.  It would be interesting to know if her new lambs show the same trait in a couple of years.   I haven't yet looked into the heritability of silver mantles, or if it is associated with multihorns or is an independant trait.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 12:00:12 am by Fleecewife »
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

kanisha

  • Joined Dec 2007
    • Spered Breizh Ouessants
    • Facebook
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2018, 06:52:05 am »
Two points primitive breed historical selection is fundamentaly different to breed development in breeds such as the southdown.
Does no one consider what factors affected selection in hebridean to assist with selection today? Why does the breed exist?
« Last Edit: April 12, 2018, 07:05:55 am by kanisha »
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kanisha

  • Joined Dec 2007
    • Spered Breizh Ouessants
    • Facebook
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2018, 06:57:31 am »
Fleecewife at the risk of being contraversial and admitting that I know nothing of the breeds history viewing as an outsider. Both white hebrideans in the breed  and four horned individuals could be explained by the introduction of a jacob sheep providing both dominant black which is now known in the breed and four horned individuals.  From an ecology standpoint four horns wouldn't seem to provide a selection advantage?
« Last Edit: April 12, 2018, 07:06:19 am by kanisha »
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Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2018, 12:32:42 pm »
Hi Kanisha
Four horned skulls have been found in ancient settlement sites in Britain, thought to have arrived here well before the Romans, and long before Jacobs emerged via the southern route from the Middle East, or 'Vikings' appeared on our shores.  Multi horned skulls can be identified readily from a segment of bone from the back of the skull which is triangular not straight.


Yes, it is thought that Jacobs and Hebrideans mingled in some of the parkland flocks, and a bit of BWM and Soay squeezed its way in too, but multihorns are long established in Britain.
Lambing tests have long shown that there is some black dominance in Hebrideans, which should not be there in what should be a very recessive colour scheme, and that could come from Jacobs or BWM. The white of Jacobs is caused by the spotting gene on a genetically black dominant sheep - so Jacobs are not white sheep with black spots, but black sheep with one great big white spot.  So that should mean that the white Hebs did not get their colour from Jacobs.  I must admit I am very unsure about white Hebrideans - it is a topic which is not usually looked into seriously in the breed society.


The selection which gave us the black Hebridean we know now, occurred in the late 1800s when black individuals were collected from the Western isles, taken from the generally multicoloured 'land sheep' of Scotland, and brought to country parks in Scotland and England - the best known at Storrs Hall on Windermere.  There is a photo taken of this flock when it arrived which shows us their phenotype (you can see it on my website) and most of these new arrivals, before any contact with Jacobs, had multihorns.  They were specifically chosen (by Man) for the horns and black fleece, at a time when big house owners wanted unusual animals in their parklands - such as Jacob sheep and zebras.  There are many myths about Jacob sheep history too.


The multiple horns of Hebrideans, Jacobs, Manx Loughtan, Navajo Churro and various Hungarian and so on breeds, do give an advantage, which is easy to observe in a modern flock with both types of hornset. The big horns give an immediate sense of dominance when tups are in contest, and can often be enough to stop a fight before it starts. (Think red deer stags)  Also, the animals know exactly where the tips of their horns are and can neatly take out their opponent's eye.  A contest between a multihorned sheep and a two horned sheep is usually won by the multihorn.  It could also be the case that it's easier to see off predators with neatly used multiple horns.
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Black Sheep

  • Joined Sep 2015
  • Briercliffe
    • Monk Hall Farm
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2018, 02:18:04 pm »
It's early days Black Sheep - we have yet to get the committee to agree that there is an Ancient Type, and that its conservation is important, although there are stirrings of interest.

Thanks, sorry not posted sooner due to lambing :-)

I can understand that so look forward to hearing more as things progress.

Quote
Yes, I would say that your ewe has a silver mantle.  She is also sporting a wonderful chest wig, which is another primitive trait.  It would be interesting to know if her new lambs show the same trait in a couple of years.

I'm sure she'll be thrilled to be told about her chest wig :-) Will keep an eye on her ewe lamb as it grows up and see.

Looking at pictures of the other girls quite a few seem to be quite wiggy too :-) So given that we'll be looking for a tup later in the year, if I want to try and maintain this are there any particular characteristics to look for apart from those already mentioned?

Black Sheep

  • Joined Sep 2015
  • Briercliffe
    • Monk Hall Farm
Re: hebridean - white
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2018, 02:20:43 pm »
From an ecology standpoint four horns wouldn't seem to provide a selection advantage?

I would agree with @Fleecewife that there are a number of plausible reasons why four horns could be an advantage either for direct survival (and thus breeding) or increasing the odds of breeding. There are also disadvantages such as the extra energy needs to grow and carry them about but as they were common it suggests that the advantages in the system in which they existed outweighed these.

 

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