Cunningsburgh (Shetland) show, part 2 – sheep

posted in: Sheep, Sheep: Shetland, Travel | 3

It was easy to spend most of my time around the sheep area at the Cunningsburgh show. There was a lot going on. Initially sheep were arriving and getting settled into their pens, although by the time I got there at 8:45 most were in place.

This is a not-quite-complete view of the sheep section. Shetlands were along the two rows adjacent to the ditch. Closer to the buildings and tents were the sheep of other breeds (mostly rams used in crossing) and the crossbreds.

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Here’s a view of the end with the crossbreds (to the left and back in relation to the photo above).

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And here are some Shetlands.

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Shetlands can (and should) be “stroppy,” or lively. One was a bit too lively and escaped, not through the inadequately secured gate (which would have put it within the confines of a corridor) but over the outside barricade.

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That photo was taken when Elizabeth Johnston and I were briefly blocking it from one direction and two other folks were blocking it from other directions.

It went over the ditch and back a couple of times, while another responsible party took over from our direction. The trick in getting sheep to go where you want them to is not being too direct about the whole process or they’ll bolt. Especially Shetlands.

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When this one was captured, it was put in JAIL, with a barricade over the top of the outside half of its pen.

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Not all the sheep at the show were Shetlands, although there were certainly plenty of those. In the next photo, the sheep in the front with the white blaze is, not surprisingly, a Zwartbles (black-with-a-blaze). Behind it are some Suffolk rams, dyed orange for the occasion.

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Someone I met had asked one of the judges why the vivid and unnatural color had been applied. The answer appeared to be that this was so people could tell where the ram was when he was in with a group of ewes out on the hills. I’ve also heard of sheep being dyed colors either to prevent thievery or for reasons of playful artistry.

Here’s a closer photo of a young Suffolk ram.

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And an undyed one, behind a Shetland that won a lot of ribbons—in part to show the size differences between the sheep. The ram in the background isn’t even one of the biggest ones. Admittedly, the Shetland is a young ewe, but she’s full-size Shetland.

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There was a handful of Scottish Blackfaces.

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And some Texels.

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And quite a few Cheviots.

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The Shetlands were in three groups: white, moorit, and “any other colour."

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Judging started at about 10 a.m. and ended around noon.

First the individual classes were judged: many of them, including (for the white sheep) tup (ram) older than three years (“aged”), tup two and three years, tup one year, tup lamb; ewe, ewe with lamb(s) at foot, ewe lamb, gimmer (young female not bred yet), ewe with crossbred lamb(s) at foot. Similar but not identical groups for the moorit and “any colour not included above” groups. I’m just looking at Shetland classes now, because that was where I paid attention.

After the individual classes had been completed, cross-class judging occurred within each group (example: Best Coloured Shetland Sheep), and then across the categories (champions and reserve champions and best of opposite sex).

One of the award decisions within the colored sheep section came down to a choice between this handsome ram:

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and this lovely ewe:

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Almost all of the judging took place with the sheep staying in their individual pens, but in this case the judge had the two sheep brought into a single pen for side-by-side comparison.

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His final decision seemed to come down to extreme niceties of wool quality. (By the way, all of these sheep had been rooed (had shed their wool) or been shorn relatively recently.)

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They were very close, and he examined the wool at a number of places on each sheep, taking his time about it.

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The ewe took home the ribbon, although on a different day the ram might have.

Isn’t this a handsome ram (tup)? One of the things I learned just by hanging around the sheep pens is that you can tell the age of a ram by the growth sections on his horns. This fellow is four years old.

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One of my favorite Shetland sheep wasn’t even part of the big judging process. It was in the children’s pets category.

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And on looking at the show catalog, I’ve just discovered that I completely missed the sheepdog classes. Well, I may need to come back another year.

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(2,833 entries. No wonder I didn’t see them all.)

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3 Responses

  1. I have seen raddle marks to show where the ram has been but never a dyed in the wool ram to show where he is! There would be no hiding with a fleece in that colour. Rebecca

  2. The sheep “jail” setup makes me think that they’ve dealt with very stroppy sheep once or twice before! Was thi escape one of the times that a person, preferably wit a dog, was requested by the man with a microphone?

  3. Yes, they’ve dealt with escape-artist sheep before. Apparently the flock from which this one came is known for such antics. And this wasn’t a dog-assisted reclamation project. It did take five people.

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