Boreray Sheep Visual Characteristics

The sheep on Boreray Island do not have detailed information due to the inaccessibility of their home. Few people have had the opportunity to visit the island for more than a few hours in recent years. John Morton-Boyd has probably recorded more information of these sheep on their homeland than anyone else. He visited the island on several occasions sometimes staying for a few days.Dr. David Bullock also stayed on the island for two and a half weeks in1980 and he also recorded information of the sheep. Very few sheep have ever been taken from the island the most important group consisted of four ewes and three rams that were obtained for the Animal Breeding Research Organisation in 1971 where they were bred with and kept for several years. All the Boreray Sheep registered with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust are descended from this group. One old ewe of this group died before producing offspring.

Boreray sheep grazing on Boreray Island photo courtesy of Murdo Macdonald

The characteristics of the mainland Boreray sheep are therefore more limited than those on the Island of Boreray. When the islanders left St. Kilda in 1930 their domestic sheep were assembled in an enclosure ready to be shipped to the mainland to be sold. Alasdair Alpin MacGregor was on Hirta to record the evacuation. He took photos of the sheep waiting for their departure. One of these historic photos reproduced below, shows the great variety of Characteristics shown in the domestic sheep.


flock of sheepnear Factors House, Hirta
© National Trust for Scotland Photo Library, Alasdair A. MacGregor photographer date 1930

Some sheep in this photo are horned, some are polled. Some are almost pure white and some are very dark. The face markings also vary a great deal.