The Hebridean sheep, a breed hailing from the Scottish Isles, stands out with its small size, black coat, and distinctive triangular tail. Typically featuring one pair of horns, both rams and ewes may exhibit two or more pairs, with some exceptions displaying none. Their black, coarse wool fades to brown in the sun and often turns grey with age. Weighing around 40 kg for fully grown ewes and slightly heavier for rams, Hebrideans are hardy creatures thriving on rough grazing. Their effectiveness in scrub control makes them valuable for conservation grazing, maintaining natural grassland and heathland habitats.
The Hebridean sheep’s lineage can be traced to the Scottish Dunface, small and short-tailed sheep prevalent up to the Iron Age. These Dunfaces, surviving in the Highlands and Islands until the 19th century, eventually gave way to long-tailed breeds like the Scottish Blackface and Cheviot. The Hebridean sheep’s ancestors were exported from St Kilda and were initially known as ‘St Kildas’ in the 19th century. Renamed “Hebrideans” in 1906 by John Guille Millais, these sheep were once kept in the parks of wealthy landowners. While skepticism about their St Kilda origins persists, the breed faced a revival after being identified as in need of conservation in 1973. Today, Hebridean sheep are no longer considered rare and are kept in various parts of the world, including their native Hebrides.