The Ouessant (pronounced: Ushant) sheep breed is a domestic breed which is named for the island where it originated. The island of Ouessant is a small piece of land located just off the coast of Brittany, France and until early in the 20th century the Ouessant sheep breed could only be found on this small island.
Thought to be the product of selective breeding from European short-tailed stock, the Ouessant is now found throughout Europe and on several farms in the US – specifically in Massachusetts and California.
Occasionally referred to as the Breton Dwarf sheep, the Ouessant breed is one of the smallest in existence.
What Do Ouessant Sheep Look Like?
Ouessant rams stand only 19 inches tall at the shoulder and Ouessant ewes are typically smaller – measuring a mere 18 inches tall.
Ouessant sheep are typically black or dark brown, but some of these sheep are white as well.
Ouessant rams have horns (which can actually get quite large and impressive despite the breed’s small stature) and ewes are polled (they don’t have horns).
The small size of the Ouessant sheep breed is attributed to the meager grazing on the island of Ouessant. Smaller sheep which were able to produce more wool while requiring less forage were preferred and over time the breed grew smaller.
Why Raise Ouessants?
Though small, the Ouessant breed is known to produce a thick, fleece with a long wool staple and historically the wool from this breed was the primary material used to produce clothing on the isle of Ouessant.
As with most smaller, primitive breeds of sheep lambing is generally easy and small hobby farmers find the Ouessant an attractive option because they are easy to handle, require less space and do well on small pastures.
For more information on this breed visit www.ouessantsheep.org.uk.