The breed comes from the small island of that name, about 12 miles off the most westerly point of Brittany. These charming little sheep are claimed to be the smallest in the world, with the ram’s shoulder height at just 48-50cm and the ewes 45-46cm. The islanders selected black sheep for breeding, for their preferred colour – black clothing was worn by married women in poor rural communities in southern Europe and west of Ireland until at least the early 1900s. Interestingly the island is composed of the same ancient rock as the Land’s End and Lizard peninsulas. I would love to visit the island one day.
Some people suggest that the Ouessant breed descended from a Viking breed carried onboard the ships and left behind on conquered lands.
These sheep belong to Pierre who was our neighbour when we lived in Normandy recently. He hadn’t had them very long and was eagerly expecting the young lambs to be born. Ouessant very rarely produce twins, and it’s unlikely that such a small sheep could carry or raise more than one lamb.
However, the above very young caramel ram in his first year of breeding managed to produce two sets of twins in the spring see below one set, a rare event for a rare breed.