History of Gotland Sheep
Gotland sheep are descendants of the Gute Sheep from the Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Per GSBANA website (Gotland Sheep Breeder Association of North America) Legend has it that the Gotland breed, as we know it today, began with one farm in the early 1920’s. Shepherds wanted a breed of sheep with no horns and a higher quality fleece. A particular farmer saw a ram on a train headed for the slaughterhouse. He liked the look of the ram, pulled him off the train, bought him right there. He used this ram to cross breed to his Gute Sheep and began selecting and breeding for polled sheep and the characteristic curly grey fleeces of the Gotland peltsheep or modern Gotland sheep.
Per wikipedia, the Gotland sheep are fine-boned and of medium size. They are polled and have no wool on their heads and legs. Their fleece is fine, long, lustrous and dense and can be all shades of grey from silver to charcoal grey. In the USA Gotland can also be found in white and moorit. They have a clearly defined curl. Their disposition is docile and friendly. The fleece is typically 29 to 34 micrometres. Lambswool can be in the low to mid 20s micrometre range. The fleece is prized in the US by hand-spinners and in Europe they are most desired for their pelts.
Attributes of Gotland Sheep
- Easy to lamb, strong mothering instincts
- Hardy breed, easy to manage and adaptable
- Medium sized breed, good size carcass, great tasting lamb
- Naturally hornless and short-tailed
- Friendly and calm making it very appealing for children and families
- A triple purpose breed for wool, pelts and meat
Why We Raise Gotland Sheep
Our family started raising Gotland sheep in 2013 after our oldest son saw his first Gotlands at Black Sheep Gathering. He researched the breed and we decided that they were worth a serious inquiry. We started our flock with a 50% Gotland ewe bought on Craigslist. She turned out to be an amazing animal, giving us triplets and quads (she is now retired on our farm). We selected a breeder, learned more about the breed and bought a starter flock, 2 ewes, 1 bottle-fed ewe lamb and a high percentage ram. At the time we were looking to raise lambs for meat whilst having the benefits of a small docile breed on our homestead. Little did we know that we would completely fall in love with the Gotlands! We are now upbreeding our flock using imported Swedish semen available in the US and rams of Swedish genetics, having decided to focus on the Swedish genetics as much as they are available.