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Author Topic: The right sheep for vikings?  (Read 4430 times)

Buffy the eggs layer

  • Joined Jun 2010
The right sheep for vikings?
« on: October 21, 2015, 08:18:42 am »
I visited a model viking and saxon village recently which had a small number of livestock kicking about including some shetland sheep and got to thinking about what breeds would  be from that period. I suppose they would have kept goats too may be...? or pigs..? poultry....?


Any thoughts....?

Deere

  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Peak District
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2015, 10:09:37 am »
I seem to think Gotlands? or was I dreaming about watching a programme a few weeks back?  ???
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clydesdaleclopper

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2015, 10:40:58 am »
Definitely Gotlands
Our holding has Anglo Nubian and British Toggenburg goats, Gotland sheep, Franconian Geese, Blue Swedish ducks, a whole load of mongrel hens and two semi-feral children.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2015, 11:52:10 am »
Not Shetlands, which have been bred for fine, single coated fleece.
If you mean 'Vikings' in Britain, then probably the multi-coloured, multi-horned 'land sheep' or tan face would be the thing.  They were found throughout Britain I believe and are thought to be the ancestors of our modern 'primitive' breeds such as Hebs, Shetlands, Manx Loughtan, North Ronaldsays and so on, each of which has evolved to suit their particular environment and the needs of their shepherds. 
However, it is thought that the Romans were the ones responsible for introducing finer fleeced sheep, which gradually became the amazingly fleeced animals that England's wealth was built on.  So highly bred white sheep were around in Viking times, however that is defined, but perhaps only in monasteries, and the old type were more prevalent amongst the general populace.
Soays are often used as being primitive sheep, but perhaps more in the pre-Roman time.
There are of course various breeds which claim to have been 'brought over' by 'the Vikings' - not the invaders but the farming settlers. The hard evidence for that is missing but it is often claimed for example that multi-horned sheep are Viking in origin.  However, the archaeological evidence shows that multi-horned sheep were around in the Bronze Age, long before the Viking era.  It is likely that, as with Hebs, the Viking claim was a deliberate attempt to romanticise the origins of our rare primitive breeds, to help make them more popular.

If you mean Vikings in the Scandinavian countries, then they now have various northern shorttailed sheep, including Gotlands and Icelandic, so perhaps they had a very similar type to Britain.

So, which would be the best breed to use in re-enactment villages?  Probably a mix of Hebs, Manx, Ronnies etc, interbred, to give something like the original horned and multihorned, multi-coloured type.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 11:55:37 am by Fleecewife »
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Cosmore

  • Joined Jun 2015
  • Dorset
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2015, 01:20:54 pm »
Pigs were probably something like 'iron age pigs', wild boar crosses. One of our current oldest breeds that have not (largely at least)  had other European / Neopolitan blood introduced is the Tamworth, the woodland pig - but I think this breeds ancestors would look different to todays Tamworth.

pharnorth

  • Joined Nov 2013
  • Cambridgeshire
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2015, 02:08:34 pm »
I was at the shepherds meet (Wasdale Show) a couple of weeks back and the commentator to the judging was saying Herdwicks have a strong genetic link with Scandanavian sheep and mentioned Texels too the relationship suggesting they were imported by Vikings. 

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2015, 03:20:41 pm »
Quote
Full article
Uniquely, there is a high incidence of the R0 retrotype in the Herdwick population, characteristic of a primitive genome found previously in very few breeds worldwide and none in the UK mainland. The Herdwick and Rough Fells carry two rare retroviral insertion events, common only in Texels, suggesting sheep populations in the northern uplands have a historical association with the original pin-tail sheep of Texel Island.

In the global study of 133 breeds, the R0 retrotype was detected to any abundance in only 10 breeds world-wide. No R0's were identified in the UK mainland breeds, although only one northern upland breed was analysed in that study, the Scottish Blackface.

...

Other breeds exhibiting substantial levels of the R0 retrotype were located outside the UK, and in addition to Mouflon orientalis, were populations in Sweden (Rya, Gotland, Gute), Finland (Finnsheep, Kainuu Grey Sheep, Aland) and Iceland (Icelandic, Leader sheep)]. Our data suggest that the Herdwick may originate from a common ancestral founder flock to these other breeds.


They didn't find the retrotype in any other UK mainland breeds - but didn't look in all of them, just a small subset (8 in all, including the Herdwick, Rough Fell and Dalesbred.)  They did find it very prevalent in the North Ronaldsay, and to a small degree in the Soay, but not in the other two Island breeds they studied.


There's an easier read, which talks only about the research on the Herdie, Rough Fell and Dalesbred here
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Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2015, 03:26:35 pm »
I was at the shepherds meet (Wasdale Show) a couple of weeks back and the commentator to the judging was saying Herdwicks have a strong genetic link with Scandanavian sheep and mentioned Texels too the relationship suggesting they were imported by Vikings.

Quote
The Texel Breed Society refers to the present day Texels originating in the late 19th century from crosses of the native breed (Pielsteert/pin-tail) on the Texel Island, north of the Netherlands, with Lincoln, Leicester and Wensleydale breeds

People forget that a lot of the genes in the Texel came from England!  (And that a lot of them are great fleece breeds, too ;) :spin:)

But yes, common origins amongst a few native UK breeds and some of the Scandanavian, Icelandic and Dutch sheep.

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2015, 03:27:32 pm »
Buffy... arrange the following into a well-known phrase or saying:


    worms - can - opened 


lol
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Buffy the eggs layer

  • Joined Jun 2010
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2015, 08:37:38 pm »
By golly you are good!




      what a fascinating thread. Yes I was thinking of vikings in this country rather than Scandinavian ones.  I think that my beloved Ryelands are one of "monistary" breeds as mentioned above though I tend to think of them as much more recent than that.
 Any thoughts on what other livestock would have been farmed? Goats or cows? Would they have been milking sheep or horses? I think the animals sheltered in the same building as the people back then so the animals must have been very docile and humanised.


  I realise that farming began in the neolithic period had thought that they would have probably just kept sheep and maybe some poultry........ Interesting stuff though you big livestock boffins! 

Foobar

  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: The right sheep for vikings?
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2015, 01:24:37 pm »
Not really totally related to this thread, but might be of interest to some:
Population structure and history of the Welsh sheep breeds determined by whole genome genotyping    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186%2Fs12863-015-0216-x#/page-1


I only happened to read it as someone said it made mention of the Black Welsh being linked to an old Norwegian breed the Spaelsau.

 

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