Soay Sheep

The Soay sheep breed originated from the island of Soay in St Kilda (not to be confused with the Island of Soay south-west of the Isle of Skye). The name of the island in Norse means “sheep island” so they have obviously been present for hundreds of years. In fact they are probably more than 4000 years old as a breed and represent the most primitive sheep in Britain. They are most likely to represent the ancient sheep of our ancestors.

After the islanders were evacuated from Hirta in 1930, the only inhabited island in St Kilda, a flock of SOAY were relocated from the island of Soay and allowed to inhabit the island. This feral flock has been the subject of many interesting studies by several academic institutions and given more information into understanding this fascinating breed of sheep . In the natural state the majority of the animals are horned but some are polled (no horns) and others are scurred (incomplete horns).

These very hardy sheep are used to surviving Atlantic weather but on Hirta have the benefit of many man-made stone shelters called cleits. These were originally used by the human inhabitants as stores but now offer shelter to the sheep. Our own Soay sheep have a variety of shelters available (pig arks, sheds etc.) which they always populate when the weather is wet.