The fascinating story of the Orkney Borerays…
The Boreray is a primitive breed of sheep, with a small, slender frame, their wool is known to be fine and good for spinning. All have heavy spiraling horns and their meat is flavoursome and usually eaten as hogget or mutton to allow the meat to mature.
Boreray Island is part of the St. Kilda group. The breed originated in the late 1800’s from a cross between the Blackface and a variety of the old Scottish Dunface/Tanface sheep from the Iron Age which is now extinct so this is all that remains. When the people left St. Kilda in 1930, sheep were left behind on Boreray where they have been a feral flock ever since. In 1970s a small group of six animals was brought over to the mainland but the mainland population is very small.
Fast forward to 21st Century on Orkney and Jane Cooper, a dedicated breeder with a fascination for wools and yarns too, had the opportunity to take on the ‘Lost Flock’ as they were known – with genetics from sheep from the little-known trip to Boreray Island in late 1970’s taken for research, making them unique. All other Boreray sheep in UK come from just 6 sheep from the original collection from St Kilda. These Orkney Boreray sheep and their descendants have no crossing with any of the registered Boreray sheep in rest of UK, making them a rare genebank for Orkney. Also on Slow Food Ark of Taste.
A few available on market from time to time through Macbeths of Forres. Click on contact button for further information.
Photos © Burnside Borerays
Archive St Kilda photo unattributed as yet