scottish wool

The Shetland Islands are famed the world over for their knitwear exports.  Shetland Wool is prized for its durability and warmth.  Here it is in its most raw state with the production unit based on the bleak Stenness peninsula.   As an aside, they were the friendliest sheep I have ever encountered so perhaps Shetland Wool makes for happy pullovers and sweaters!


Today I had a lecture on breeds where we were told that there are 109 breeds of sheep in the UK and 1409 world-wide. I can name a few breeds from my work experience over the years but I thought it was time to get to know some of the main contributors to the UK lamb and wool industries. I have to admit I had no idea that sheep came in so many shapes and sizes!

25% of the world’s sheep population are known as ‘fat-tailed’ sheep. They have distinctively large tails and hindquarters and aren’t as common in Europe. Fat is stored in their tail area making it popular for cooking. Some of these sheep have coarse wool which has a limited value in the commercial market. A great example if a fat tailed sheep in shown in the top left image. That is a Blackhead Persian, an example of a ‘hair sheep’ that does not grow wool.  These are very rarely seen in the UK as they are suited to warmer climates and bred for meat alone.

Sheep breeds come from the hills, uplands and lowlands. Due to stratified crossbreeding in the UK purebred and crossbred sheep are both popular in the sheep industry. Sheep are mainly bred for meat and wool, however they can also be used in the dairy industry.

Breeds come in and out of favour depending on trends in the industries at the time. Many purebred breeds are disappearing as times change. One casualty of this is the breed Clun Forest, picture in the middle at the top. I love this breed. They are gorgeous. In 1971 there were around 401,000 in the UK. In 2012 this had declined to 10,000 due to changes in the demand of the meat market. Going the opposite way, the Lleyn, originating in Wales, has risen in popularity from 7000 in 1971 to 474,000 now in the UK. The Lleyn Sheep Society website states that farmers soon find that the Lleyn ewe is an ideal sheep; quiet in nature, prolific with great maternal instincts, milky, and will not eat you out of house and home’. This breed is pictured top right.

The breed I was lambing with last year were Texels. I took the picture (second down and to the left) on a Welsh farm and think it perfectly reflects their stubborn nature but beautiful full faces. This breed have long rectangular bodies. I found out today that the breed actually has a mutation of the myostatin gene resulting in their lean musculature. This could be seen as the cause in their increase in popularity. Blue Texels are becoming especially popular in the UK meat industry. These are purebred Texels but with the recessive ‘blue’ gene. They are pictured second down and in the middle. They were originally imported to the UK from France in 1973, but the breed originated in Holland.

Scottish blackface sheep, shown second down and to the right, are the most common breed of domestic sheep in the UK. Both sexes are horned are have very distinctive black faces and legs. They are mostly bred for meat.

The Bluefaced Leicester are also very significant in the UK and are crossed with around 50% of the UK’s commercial breeding flocks. These are shown bottom left.

Jacob Sheep, middle bottom, are pretty striking and rare! Their wool is very popular as it’s naturally dark brown and white.

Another sweet breed is the Oxford Down. They produce a large meaty carcass as well as a lot of wool. They are shown bottom right.fat taile

langblrs unite

hi, crazy idea. so now that duolingo has the “duolingo for schools” thing where you can create classrooms and track the students’ progress and give them assignments, what about we create some for langblr? like…one for german, one for french etc. etc. I think it would help a lot of people with motivation and studying more

what do you say?

@scottish-polyglot @polysprachig @norwegian-wool @languageoclock @sprachtraeume @linguistisch

Here’s another bespoke jacket that was tailored in my absence. The fit on this one is quite good, though the matching vest could stand to fit a little tighter, but it is adjustable in the back. I’m not wearing the vest here. The jacket has a nice lapel roll, and a flattering silhouette. The tailor’s main oversight in this instance is that the ticket pocket has no pocket, it’s just a flap. But you know what? I’ve never been to the opera, and if I do ever go, and wear this jacket, I’ll just keep the tickets in a different pocket. Problem solved.

The tie I’m wearing here is really something to behold, though you can’t really see it in the photo. It’s a robust Scottish wool, in a slightly heathered burgundy. It knots beautifully. It was thrifted, of course, and came from one of my favorite spots where ties that are not silk are only $1. I’ll post more detailed pics of it later.

Jacket: Prince of Wales check, part of a jacket/vest set, bespoke $80

Tie: Scottish Wool, thrifted $1

Shirt: Tommy Hilfiger

Scarf: Black Watch 100% Cashmere by Johnston’s of Elgin, made in Scotland, from STP for ~$25

Pocket Square: Silk, purchased in Beijing silk shop for $3