Some of these publications attempt to winnow down the best albums of the year, or movies, or restaurants. But we wanted to challenge ourselves this week. It’s #SheepWeek, dang it. Sure, there are hundreds of new books each year, but there are literally thousands of sheep breeds, spanning centuries of cross-breeding, migration, and dozens of use cases. Yes, some of 2017’s best television shows told wonderful stories, but the Manx Loaghtan sheep has four horns that point in all different directions.
This is a list of the best sheep breeds. And by best, we mean this author’s personal favorites. There is no unified ranking system; some of these breeds make the list because they have good beards, some because they have weird histories, some because they have cool faces. Several jumped onto the list because they have big, awesome horns.
If you think a sheep should have made the list but did not, please visit our Facebook page and make your own list in the comments of this story. Thank you, merry #SheepWeek, and happy holidays!
The Racka is an old breed of sheep native to Hungary noted for its ability to survive tough winters. It has extremely good spiraled horns, similar to certain species of wild goat, but is much less mean than wild goats.
This sheep lives on the northernmost island in the Scottish Orkney archipelago. It is a small breed, and possibly the earliest sheep to come to the UK – it resembles old Scandinavian breeds – but it makes this list because it has the weirdest diet of any livestock animal in the world. The sheep are largely feral, and subsist entirely on seaweed, one of only two land animals with that sort of diet. Because the breed has been on the island so long, it has totally changed its physiology: not only would other sheep not survive on seaweed, but normal sheep food, including grass, is toxic to this breed. Crazy.
This Dutch breed is not all that interesting. It can be kept for milk, meat, or wool; by all accounts it is a friendly and easygoing breed; it is usually black with white accents. It makes the list because its name is ridiculous. Zwartbles. Come on.
The smallest sheep breed in the world, the Ouessant is native to the island of the same name off the coast of Brittany. It is extremely cute and small.
Found in New Zealand, which has roughly seven sheep for every human, the Arapawa sheep has great, big, extremely good spiral horns. They are raised mostly for their very fine wool but have also escaped and formed feral herds.
Native to the Isle of Man, at one point there were fewer than 50 of these insanely grand four-horned sheep. Today there are upwards of 1,500, which by my calculations equals about 6,000 Manx Loaghtan horns. (Both the ewes and rams have horns.)