How beautiful and harsh at the same time. Picture courtesy of Kerry A L Martin on flickr


North Ronaldsay sheep hail from from area of the same name , on  Orkney Islands of Scotland. The are the descendants of sheep originally found in the area and the breed has remained virtually unchanged since the bronze age. These sheep are especially unique because they live  virtually exclusively on seaweed for many months during the year. This is the only food available to them as the shoreline is barricaded in by a 6ft stone wall. North Ronaldsay sheep have developed an interesting digestive system eating during low tide and ruminating during high tide. The flock here is semi- feral.

Another awesome pic by Kerry A L Martin, love the colors of the sheep!

However because this is such a small flock some sheep have been bred and moved inland to preserve this precious breed. Some have been imported as an exotic breed. This breed is on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as category 5 meaning they are a minority breed. At the last census(2009) there were about 500 breeding ewes and about 3700 total on the Islands. These sheep are bred for their colorful , lovely soft fleeces.

Ewe with her twin lambs by 4buttongnome on flickr


This is  a petite, primitive breed adults rarely weight over 30 kgs or 66 pds. Rams have a heavy mane and beard with heavy curved horns. Ewes can be horned or polled. Their faces are “dished.” I had to look up this term as I had never seen it used for sheep. It means that the faces are concave in appearance. Due to the diet of seaweed they are very susceptible to copper poisoning, standard sheep management systems would poison them.

What a beautiful regal animal! Courtesy of jenstar76

Information from Wikipedia, North Ronaldsay Sheep Fellowship, and the Rare Breeds Survial Trust.

I just want to snatch him up and snuggle thanks to ggmackem on flickr

P.S. This weeks contest is for the  knitting row counter bracelet below. Just comment on this post to be entered.


Jewelry for Knitting


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36 Comments on Oh the Fiber – North Ronaldsay Sheep

  1. Jan says:

    This is very intersting and I love the pics; espcially the last one. I had forgotten about the copper poisoning. I hope this breed will be around for a very long time. It is so much fun to spin their fiber.

  2. Pat R says:

    I just learned how the row-counting abacus bracelets worked. This one is pretty enough to wear as jewelry! Only a knitter would know that it was a “working” bracelet.

  3. Anne Marie says:

    Yes, very interesting. Hope to win … so pretty.

  4. Pat S says:

    Fascinating – and now I’m going to see if I can find a source for the fleece. Thanks for the info on these sheep!

    • Deyaneria says:

      Here is a link I found on the North ronaldsay sheep fellowship site for fleece. Rye End flock has North Ronaldsay fleeces for sale. Selected at hand shearing time, all colours are available:grey, moorit, tan, white, black, grey/tan, tan/grey. tri colour. Fleeces are succesfully shown at major shows. Contact; Rita Peace. Located Hertfordshire. Tel 01438 832964. E-mail:

  5. Lisa says:

    Lovely choice of pics! I don’t spin much anymore, but may have to start again when school starts. I already have one of your lovely batts to start on then. Thanks for all the great info. The bracelet is great and useful too!

    • Deyaneria says:

      I know Scotland is so beautiful but has this bit of wistful,sadness as well which makes it quite provocative.

  6. Kara says:

    What a beautiful bracelet! I also love tools that are pretty enough to admire on their own :-). The pictures of the sheep on the rocky coast are gorgeous too – thanks for sharing!

  7. rose says:

    Very educational article, I have learnt something. Beautiful rugged scenery.

  8. Irkalla says:

    Wait what? A row counter? No baby sheeps for me? Sadness.
    On the upside it is a beautiful counter and since I lost mine this would be wonderful!

  9. Angie S. says:

    This is fascinating information about these sheep. They are beautiful and rugged creatures. I love the color of the row counter. Such a useful tool.

  10. Rose says:

    Thank you for the most interesting article on these rare sheep. I would love one of the baby lambs but could settle quite nicely for the beautiful bracelet to remind me of this beautiful island.

    Thank you for such a wonderful giveaway.

  11. Alice S. says:

    Nice article and lovely pictures. Gorgeous bracelet!

    rav: aewsimmons

  12. AmyS says:

    I keep trying to learn how to spin – I fear I am not coordinated enough for a drop spindle… and I’m scared to put the investment into a wheel if I lack the coordination there too. I keep trying though so I guess that counts for something. I love learning about all the different sheep – and if I had the ability, I would definitely do my part to keep this beautiful breed safe and strong.

    The counter bracelet is equally as beautiful – and thank you for giving us a chance to possess something so sweet.

    • Deyaneria says:

      I will be adding tutorials soon for drop spindleing and wheel spinning. I also offer one on one classes over skype if you would like. Just click on the tab fiber lessons at the top of the page to check it out.

  13. Brenda Frechette says:

    I have bookmarked your blog. Very interesting article to read. I have always wanted to go to Scotland. I am a novice spinner and knit-a-holic. I will be back to read more! Please enter me in your stitch counter contest.

  14. Michaela says:

    Very interesting post! I’ve been knitting for about 4 years, but only recently have I become interested in learning more about where the material I work actually comes from. “These sheep are bred for their colorful , lovely soft fleeces”…this makes me dream of wonderful fiber goodness :) Thank you for an interesting post and a lovely giveaway. I’d be curious to see how this bracelet works!

    Rav: knitmish

  15. Knittingdancer on Ravelry says:

    This is such an interesting post. I like reading about all kinds of sheep. I didn’t know there were so many breeds until I started knitting and reading knitting and spinning blogs. By the way, blue is my favorite color, purple is running a very close second. Beautiful pictures.

  16. Debbie H says:

    Very pretty and useful too! Thanks!

  17. Rachel says:

    This is so cool! A pretty and usefull item. I love things that have two purposes.

  18. Indulgence on Ravelry says:

    Wow! How interesting… thanks for sharing this article. I had no idea that there were sheep whose diet consisted of ocean vegetation. Thanks also for the contest. Gorgeous bracelet!

    Indulgence on Rav

  19. dianne killeen says:

    Great article and fab giveaway, pretty and useful I like a lot lol,Dianne (witchycat on Rav) xx

  20. Kenyetta says:

    Interesting article! I never knew there were feral sheep!
    Kenyetta on Ravelry

  21. Carmen says:

    What a beautiful bracelet. I’ve never seen that type of row counter before (but then again I’m new to knitting).

  22. Hazel Blumberg-McKee says:

    Beautiful row counter! And not only beautiful, but practical, too. I’d wear it as jewelry!


  23. […] Remember to comment on Monday’s Post  to enter this weeks drawing for the beautiful row counting bracelet […]

  24. Jodi says:

    Those babies! I Hope they continue to increase in their numbers, nothing else breaks my heart so badly as when animals are put on the endangered lists. Love your site, so informative.thank you so much,

  25. quinn says:

    Rugged critters and a rugged environment!

    Thanks for the giveaway opp…I’ve been thinking about one of those bracelet/counters for a long time, and that sure is a pretty one!

    Quinn on rav

  26. Kimberly says:

    I love unique knitting jewelry

  27. Penny says:

    Love this!!! So pretty. I have always wondered about these!
    Penny- Sch4gators on RAV

  28. Carol R says:

    Lovely bracelet. Interesting article on the sheep.

    Carolre on Rav

  29. Suzanne Shattuck says:

    I would LOVE this counter bracelet. I havent found anything that really works quite right for me. Oh, and I love the pics!

    • Deyaneria says:

      I’m sorry the contest went from monday the 23-thursday the 26th. I have a contest every 2 weeks though and will definitely offer another one. So keep checking back!

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