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The World’s Smallest Sheep
The breed takes its name from the small French Island, Ouessant, situated west of Brest in Brittany.
It is a very old breed whose origin is still a mystery. It has been suggested that it is related to the
Skudde and the Hebridean.
The Skudde is a Nordic short-tailed heather sheep that originated in East Prussia and the Baltic
States. The Hebridean, a Northern short- tailed sheep, originated in the islands off the western coast of Scotland.
The three breeds have a lot in common, being of small size with imposing open spiral horns and of
similar conformation. Some people say that these three breeds descended from a Viking breed of
sheep carried on board Viking Ships and left behind on conquered lands.
There were originally two lines of Ouessant; the Morbihan and the Vendeen, that eventually merged.
The Morbihan was of small size and black, brown or white in colour. The Vendeen was taller, only of
black colour and with impressive horns.
The predominant black fleece colour resulted from selective breeding and elimination of other colours
by the inhabitants of Ouessant. However, the brown colour reappeared as soon as the breed began
spreading to the mainland. Cross-breeding for increased meat production resulted in some
occasional white-coloured fleece.
The Ouessant is the smallest sheep in the world with a shoulder height of about 48 – 50 centimeters
(19 – 20 inches) for the Rams, and 45 – 46 centimeters (17 – 18 inches) for the Ewes. The small
size is hereditary and is a result of living in such severe conditions on the island of Ouessant, but
animal size and carcass quality can increase with the quality and quantity of feeding. The breed is
slow maturing with a growth cycle exceeding three years.
The Ouessant is an affectionate, easy-to-keep breed that needs very little space.
It has a square frame with a straight back, short neck and long legs. Its well-proportioned head has a
straight or slightly concave nose, small jaw, short ears and large light amber eyes. The wool is long
with a dense inner fleece. The top of the head is covered with wool. The fleece weighs 1.2 – 1.8 kilos
for the Ram and 1.0 – 1.5 kilos for the Ewe, which is ten percent of the total body weight, more than
any other breed in Europe.
Only the males of this breed are horned. The impressive horns are curled and typically twist outward,
with some exceptions found in Brittany where the horns of a Mouflon type twist inward.
The breed was almost extinct due to extensive crossbreeding. A few dedicated farmers in Normandy and
Brittany saved the Ouessant by forming a few flocks, and facilitating the development of breeding
programs in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Tel; Andrew, 07970 858536