Shetland sheep

Shetland sheep are a small and hardy breed of domestic sheep originating from the Shetland Islands, located off the northeast coast of Scotland. Here’s a description of Shetland sheep and their distribution:

Description of Shetland Sheep:

  • Size: Shetland sheep are among the smallest of the British sheep breeds, with mature ewes typically standing around 55 to 65 centimeters (22 to 26 inches) tall at the shoulder, and rams slightly larger. They have a compact and sturdy build, with short legs and a broad, rounded body.
  • Coat: Shetland sheep have a dense fleece of fine wool that comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including white, black, gray, moorit (brown), and various shades of tan. Some individuals may exhibit spotting or patches of color on their fleece.
  • Horns: Both rams and ewes of Shetland sheep can be either horned or polled (hornless). Horns, if present, are usually small and may be either straight or slightly curved.
  • Temperament: Shetland sheep are known for their gentle and docile temperament, making them suitable for small-scale farming, hobby farming, and conservation grazing projects. They are generally easy to handle and can adapt well to a variety of environments.
  • Uses: Shetland sheep are valued for their wool, which is prized for its softness, warmth, and versatility. The wool is commonly used in hand spinning and knitting projects to produce a range of garments and textiles. Shetland sheep may also be raised for meat production, though they are typically smaller and produce less meat compared to larger sheep breeds.
  • Adaptability: Shetland sheep are well-adapted to the rugged and often harsh conditions of the Shetland Islands, where they have been raised for centuries. They are known for their hardiness, resilience, and ability to thrive on rough grazing land.
  • Conservation Status: Shetland sheep are not considered a rare or endangered breed, but efforts are underway to conserve and promote the breed’s unique characteristics and genetic diversity.


  • While Shetland sheep originated from the Shetland Islands, they are now found in various countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • In the United Kingdom, Shetland sheep are still commonly raised on the Shetland Islands, where they play an important role in the local economy and cultural heritage.
  • Outside of their native range, Shetland sheep are often kept for their wool, meat, or for conservation grazing purposes in environmentally sensitive areas.

Overall, Shetland sheep are prized for their wool, adaptability, and charming personality, making them a popular choice for small-scale farmers, fiber enthusiasts, and conservationists alike.

Shetland sheep in Zoos

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