Celebrating Rare Sheep Breed Month

Gra Trøender sheep in a winter landscape

It’s not quite as cold as in the photo above, with these cute rare sheep from Norway, but it’s close! While people in northern Australia are experiencing heatwaves, we down south are putting our jumpers back on and getting soaked with rain: welcome to our Summer weather 🤣

I’m going to repeat myself again and say it’s been super busy here again. Extra busy now because all the rare sheep breed updates I want to do for this short month of February had to be organised and dyed before I start dyeing the February club. It takes me about a week to dye and card and pack the club so that means that for all the updates , that work has to fit in a very small time frame. In itself that is okay, because I have been doing this for over 18years now..lol, but it helps when either the weather is nice and warm OR the fire is on in the house so everything can get nice and dry in a shortish period of time. Having weather that doesn’t know it is actually supposed to be summer and acts like it is a winter autumn is not as good to get things done. Safe to say, the whole house is filled with wet-ish sheep so to speak…rofl

I thought Is would be great to start February off with a BANG! Not only is tonight a rare sheep breed but an extra special rare sheep breed: the Norwegian Grå Trøender sheep!

The Norwegian Gra Troender is a very rare breed of domesticated sheep that originated from crossbreeding the native Landrace sheep with the now extinct Tautra sheep in the late 19th century.

In 1998, the Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources established a project for collecting and freezing semen from Grey Troender sheep rams in an effort to revive the breed. There are currently around 150 breeding Gra Trondersau ewes remaining today, and only 25 breeding rams; all happily grazing in Norway. Yes, they are super cute as well , with their distinctive “teardrop” markings underneath their eyes.

When you are lucky enough to be able to travel: there is a wonderful wool museum on Munkholmen, a small island in the Trondheimfjord, just a ten minute boat ride from the city center. The island has lived many lives, including being a monastery, a prison, and a fortress at different points in history, but these days it’s mostly a nice place for an outing, with plenty of green grass for a picnic, a little beach for swimming/bathing, and a few facilities on site like a cafe and a shop.

The shop (called Munkholmen Galleri) which featured all kinds of things from local artists and makers, and also has a corner dedicated to the Gra troender sheep with sheepskins and handspun yarns in three natural colours.

Here are some photos of this amazing rare sheep breed:

Close up of grå Trøender sheep

A grå Trøender sheep peeking out of the barn door

Originally bred in the Trøndelag region of Norway, from where the sheep derives its name, the Gra Troender are most commonly varying shades of grey and white in colour with distinctive white markings under the eyes. The wool of the sheep is uniform with mean fibre diameter of about 22-28 micron and 2–3 kgs greasy fleece weight.

The wool was traditionally used for yarns and felting and the pelts were used for woolskin rugs. The adult live weight of ewes is between 70 and 80 kg. The mean litter size is 1.8 lambs born per year. The present population numbers only around 100 sheep but it’s increasing. In 1998, the Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources established a project for collecting and freezing semen from Grå Troender sheep rams in an effort to revive the breed.

The fibre is very lofty and resembles the Shetland wool but with a bit more weight to it. It has a wonderful spring and vibrancy and luster to it and it spins up beautifully. I only have a very limited supply for obvious reasons, so if you would like to try and get a taste of spinning this very rare breed , please email or message me on facebook or instagram. There is only a very limited quantity of handdyed tops and natural tops available.

Paul has also been busy in his shed, creating some pretty stone inlay Tibetan support spindles and they are all going to be available on the website tonight, together with niddy noddies, wax for your wheel or spindles and lots more! 

Tibetan support spindles with gaspiete turquoise and azurite stone inlay

Have a fabulous weekend and please do share your creations on social media : can’t wait to see what you are creating! Don’t forget to add #ixchelbunny or #ixchelfibres or #ixchelyarns so I can see it pop up ♥️♥️

big hugs


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