The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Primitive Sheep => Topic started by: Pomme homme on August 16, 2016, 10:43:45 am

Title: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Pomme homme on August 16, 2016, 10:43:45 am
I'm surprised that this breed hasn't yet - as far as I can see - warranted a mention on the primitive sheep forum. It originates from the island of the same name to the north-west of the Brittany penisular. It is an island almost devoid of trees and the animals' only shelter from the Atlantic winds are the rocky outcrops. These are not high and, in consequence, the same can be said of the sheep. In Western France they are widely kept as organic lawnmowers and are very cheaply bought (often even given away). The meat is good but because of the size of the animals, the carcass yield is not significant. Thus the cost of taking them to the abattoir means that those that are killed for meat, for home consumption, generally are home killed and butchered. The tups really do have attitude. Try telling them that they are small and they'll refute the suggestion as ovine 'project fear'! We kept some a while back. After we changed to Vendéens, we kept the tup, Sooty, because of our admiration for his attitude. Even Godzilla the Goat, the day he broke out of his field and into that of the sheep, ran up the white flag after a 'head to head' with Sooty. Does anyone keep Ouessant sheep in the UK?
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Rosemary on August 16, 2016, 11:24:17 am
We've got some coming to the Scottish Smallholder Festival this year  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on August 16, 2016, 11:50:09 am
Website for the breed society UK http://www.ouessantsheep.net/ (http://www.ouessantsheep.net/)

I would add that many in France are freely available because they don't meet the standard, are not breed registered and very often are cross bred, with soay and  cameroun   being the most commonly found crosses.

Historically Ouessant sheep were developed from the marginalised primitive sheep who were adapted to thriving on poor grazing and  are considered native to north western France and in particular Brittany. The coastal plains and salt marshes offered a refuge to the breed when more commercial cross breds were introduced to meet a more commercialised market with selectively bred breeds of sheep. The Ouessant is dual purpose meat and wool and despite its small size ( less than 49cm for rams at the shoulder and less than 46cm for ewes)  mouton pré salé ( salt marsh fed meat) was considered extremely good eating and sold for a premium. In its hey day it was very much kept as a commercial breed of sheep. Its traditional colour ( black) relates to a period prior to the industrialisation of textile production when black wool was highly sought after.

Plenty been mentioned on the main forum about this breed.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: laurelrus on August 16, 2016, 12:04:31 pm
We have three pet Ouessants (Ted, Jack and Dougal) who are absolutely lovely.
They are friendly and pettable and get on well with people as well as our dogs and donkeys.
Really lovely sheep!
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on August 16, 2016, 03:25:57 pm
Our local working sheepdog breeder and trainer got some Ouessants for training young dogs.  Then sold them ( or may have had to give them away, I'm not sure ;) ) because they didn't flock together!
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: waterbuffalofarmer on August 16, 2016, 03:53:38 pm
yea there are some breeders near me who keep them, I think? I see them on preloved quite often, but yes it is a shame they're not mentioned.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on August 16, 2016, 04:04:26 pm
Our local working sheepdog breeder and trainer got some Ouessants for training young dogs.  Then sold them ( or may have had to give them away, I'm not sure ;) ) because they didn't flock together!

duh! primitive sheep have a poor flocking instinct. I have seen all male groups used for demonstrations and they can be worked with dogs but  not for the gung ho!
I've posted this before

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLocjkHotw4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLocjkHotw4)
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Pomme homme on August 16, 2016, 04:12:34 pm
They also seem to be long lived. When ultimately we had no space for Sooty to run with our Vendéen ram lambs, we gave him away to friends who had a small flock of Ouessants to graze their lawns. They told us that he'd died earlier this year. We reckon that he was probably fourteen or fifteen years old. He was tupping their ewes until last year.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: waterbuffalofarmer on August 16, 2016, 04:24:28 pm
here we are.....
http://www.preloved.co.uk/adverts/list?keyword=ouessant+sheep+for+sale (http://www.preloved.co.uk/adverts/list?keyword=ouessant+sheep+for+sale)
http://www.ouessantsheep.co.uk/ (http://www.ouessantsheep.co.uk/)
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on August 16, 2016, 06:52:45 pm
Our local working sheepdog breeder and trainer got some Ouessants for training young dogs.  Then sold them ( or may have had to give them away, I'm not sure ;) ) because they didn't flock together!

duh! primitive sheep have a poor flocking instinct. I have seen all male groups used for demonstrations and they can be worked with dogs but  not for the gung ho!
I've posted this before

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLocjkHotw4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLocjkHotw4)


Lol, two people and three dogs to pen seven sheep!  Lol

My dogs work my primitives and primitive crosses, and yes, less is more. Gung Ho doesnae work.  But I think Ouessants - or certainly, those specific Ouessants anyway - are in a different league!  The dogs had no problems with the Hebrideans, so they were just going to stick with Hebs.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on August 16, 2016, 07:01:55 pm
I don't use a dog they follow a bucket... That said I have one ram who is fast smart and sees traps everywhere. This year for the first time I let my shearer catch up the rams.  The dog was a youngster,  still, said ram was duly caught up with the rest without too much trouble.

I like to move my sheep calmly they learn to work with me not against me, maybe the Ouessants didn't appreciate getting into a flap too often.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Pomme homme on August 16, 2016, 09:10:55 pm
I suppose that, historically, the Ouessants, on their home island, didn't really have much choice as to where to go. When the choice is the pen or 'OK, folks, into the sea and next stop America', it's rather a no brainer!
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on August 16, 2016, 09:23:24 pm

I like to move my sheep calmly they learn to work with me not against me, maybe the Ouessants didn't appreciate getting into a flap too often.

I do understand what you're saying, but the working collie breeder and trainer in question has won the international on several occasions.  I don't think he would have dogs putting sheep in a flap. ;)

They had these sheep purely for working the dogs, so being able to move the sheep with a bucket of cake wasn't of interest.  The thinking was that A) 'difficult' sheep at home would mean the dogs should find competition sheep a doddle, and B) if they did displays, it would be more interesting for the public to see unusual and pretty sheep.  I guess they wanted low maintenance sheep, too.  Anyway, Ouessants didn't fit the bill, but Hebs worked fine.

I move my own little sheep with the quad and a sack of cake most of the time, too.  But I find it is necessary to be able to herd them with dogs, too, especially as ours have to be moved on foot on the road sometimes.  So my dogs are trained to work this type of  sheep too.  They need to stay well back, move quietly and calmly, much more so than with regular commercial sheep. 



Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on August 17, 2016, 08:38:24 am
There is a basic difference between moving sheep under positive direction and under coercion. Irrespective of how  well the dogs were working the sheep the drive to move them is very different from the lure of food.

I use both with my sheep and use different calls to let them know as well as my movements which I am asking them to do.  That said fear in an animal once it gets to a certain level is panic. It is the state of the sheep I am judging not the pressure of the dog. 
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: SallyintNorth on August 17, 2016, 09:18:58 am
My opening premise was that the people I know who've had Ouessants found that they didn't flock under pressure.  Hopefully that might be helpful information to anyone looking for more information about these small sheep.  As will your contirbution that, in your experience, they are easily managed with a bucket of cake.

Interesting conversations about the use of working collies generally we maybe should take to a separate thread ;)
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Pomme homme on August 17, 2016, 09:32:27 am
Maybe Ouessants have that primitive instinct to be individuals. The Ouessant ram I had would as soon take a headlong run at a sheepdog than meekly flock and be driven into a pen. Great to see, difficult not to admire but hardly conducive to good husbandry!
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on August 17, 2016, 11:24:14 am
A valid point Pomme homme but I see it slightly differently. Its better to exploit the peculiarities of the breed rather than try to make them work using the traditional approach if its found that the traditional approach doesn't work.

The is most definately a heirarchy within the two flocks that I have ( one of ewes one of rams) in reality there is very often only one sheep you need to control.  The others will follow ....like sheep.

Case in point the boys went on a joly thanks to some fence damage by the neighbouring tractor. ten rams on the loose early november.

all attempts to get them back across the fence line failed. Two were caught and manhandled back the rest were at liberty although they had been  tracked down before nightfall ( save one) the following morning early I arrived with the old ram now retired from his duties and removed as he would have fought to his death rather than give up his status as flock leader. He walks nicely on a lead and he was allowed to meet and greet everyone the boys then followed him back over the fence line with no issues. Job done  the other one who is always slower to keep up with the flock was found a few days later in with a couple of ewes at a local farmers place  :D reckon he had the best of it.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: namethatsheep on October 01, 2016, 09:14:30 pm
It was good to talk to the breeders at the Scottish Smallholder and Grower Festival and to see the sheep close-up.  I've attached two photographs so that you can see the difference between French and Dutch bloodlines. The white ewes are from French bloodlines whereas the ram is from Dutch. They are clearly different in conformation - the Dutch prefer a smaller, more wiry sheep and tend to favour coloured sheep.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on October 01, 2016, 10:03:21 pm
 name that sheep your rather sweeping generalisation based on a select sample at the lanark show is  somewhat wide of the mark  but lets just say as I have presented home bred (Brittany france) breed  champions  at national level in France and exported to Holland, the UK and Germany there is a little more to it than your comments would suggest. Glad you enjoyed the show. :)



Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: macgro7 on October 01, 2016, 10:11:30 pm
Anyone has any pics of shetland and ouessant next to each other? Just for comparison.
I'm picking up a ouessant ram soon!
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: namethatsheep on October 02, 2016, 09:41:03 am
Dear macgro7 - this may give you an idea. It was sourced from the internet and shows Ouessant with Shetland ewes. http://www.townsendfarmquail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/IMG_06971.jpg (http://www.townsendfarmquail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/IMG_06971.jpg)

Dear Kanisha - I'm intrigued to know more about differences in conformation. Thanks
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on October 02, 2016, 11:30:19 am
Name that sheep -

leaving aside differences attributable to bloodlines and flocks and as  you have identified dutch and french sources.
size  no difference between the two in preference.
colour the breed is traditionally a black wool breed and it has always had a significant bias towards black as the most  numerous, as its been identified as recessive this represents an historic and  significant  strong colour selection against white. The lack of available white sheep of quality in Holland has meant that to my knowledge only a very few imports have been made of white sheep and the majority of them from France as a consequence. Black remains even today the most represented colour in France although imports into the UK show a different measure of colour bias.

However your observations are not without merit. Even between sheep of the same breeding and bloodlines and therefore equivalent comparatively there is a difference between black and white colour variants. For genetic reasons the different colours  may have physiological or anatomical differences.  For example S.  Adalsteinsson identified statistically measurable differences in white icelandic sheep from other coloured icelandics. In the soay genetic studies have identified  black sheep as smaller a search continues for an explanation as to any selection advantage. Certainly within the Ouessant sheep population variation between blacks and white is noticable even amongst animals from the same flock with whites often being more corpulant and round boned with blacks  leaner ( carrying less body fat)  and with a bone structure which appears more angular as a consequence.

Hope that helps a little.





Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: namethatsheep on October 02, 2016, 02:06:32 pm
Dear Kanisha

Thanks for the explanation, much appreciated. I'll certainly read more on the genetics and the influence colour may have on physiognomy. It's a fascinating subject. Trugarez.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Pomme homme on October 02, 2016, 03:04:15 pm
Is it also a trait of Ouessants to try to camouflage themselves in order not to be driven with the flock?
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: devonlady on October 02, 2016, 05:59:31 pm
Mcgro, never turn your back on your tiny ram, they pack a whale of a punch! As said don't try to make a pet of him (if an entire ram) and don't let small children in the paddock with him! The best thing to do if he does try to have a pop is to put a bucket gently over his head or take him (again firmly but gently) by the horns and tip him up.
Kanisha, All I know about Ouessants is from the little flock I had, not for long enough, sadly but, as to  colouring, I had 4 white ewes and a black ram and he threw white ewe lambs always. would this be usual?
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: macgro7 on October 02, 2016, 10:05:28 pm
Provided that black is recessive and white dominant and the ewes were genetically pure white then the offspring will be always white but the next generation could be something else. Because they would be visually white but some of them would carry black gene as well.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: kanisha on October 03, 2016, 07:30:05 am
Devonlady you are quite right to warn about the dangers of rams ( of any breed)  Ouessants may be small but   can easily take out a knee if wanted. 

Depending on the genetics of your white ewes,  in combination with your ram there would have been up to a fifty percent chance of producing a black lamb, but that would also depend on roll of the dice.
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: macgro7 on October 03, 2016, 04:44:37 pm
Do those rams look ouessant to you?
Or more precisely do they look white ouessant?
Are they supposed to have brownish legs? Perhaps they are just dirty? Or crossbreed?
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: roddycm on October 03, 2016, 10:01:52 pm
Do those rams look ouessant to you?
Or more precisely do they look white ouessant?
Are they supposed to have brownish legs? Perhaps they are just dirty? Or crossbreed?

These look like Portland rams to me :)
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: macgro7 on October 04, 2016, 09:24:42 am
That's what I was thinking...
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: macgro7 on October 04, 2016, 04:15:27 pm
What do you think?
I'm not sure how big he is... need to ask to measure him properly
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Mairead on March 16, 2020, 12:26:42 am
Hello I have a pet ouessant and I am in Northern Ireland. As there are none of this breed here I was thinkin of getting frozen sperm sent. Would anyone have any idea about that if it’s possible the costs etc?
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: eryl on June 30, 2020, 08:17:44 pm
because they are not british!
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Fleecewife on July 01, 2020, 12:33:59 am
because they are not british!


 ???
Title: Re: Ouessant sheep
Post by: Fleecewife on July 01, 2020, 12:47:26 am
Hello I have a pet ouessant and I am in Northern Ireland. As there are none of this breed here I was thinkin of getting frozen sperm sent. Would anyone have any idea about that if it’s possible the costs etc?


@Mairead I'm sorry, this email appears to have been lost somewhere for three and a half months.  Did you ever sort the problem with your Ouessant?
My only knowledge of that sort of trade between countries was when we exported a dozen ewes to Northern ireland from Scotland.  It was complex and expensive and took several months to arrange, involving Animal Health here and your equivalent in NI, our vets and the recipients vets, all sorts of blood testing and health testing and customs at the border.  Semen should be much easier because all the testing will already have been done before collecting the straws, but would still need to be done through official routes, once you have contacted a supplier.
I know very little about Ouessant sheep but I would think it unlikely that semen from the breed is available in Britain. That would mean buying semen directly from France - probably easier if you were in Eire.
As a matter of interest, where did you purchase your ewe if there are no others in the country? 


I suggest your first step should be to contact your equivalent of Animal Health, having made sure you can identify a potential source of Ouessant semen.