Soay Lamb Coat Colours

One of the most intriguing aspects of Soay is the variety of colours of the lambs and how those colours change as the sheep mature . Lambs are born all shades of brown, from light to dark, even black but this is no guarantee they will grow up to be the same colour. They " tend to be more uniform in colour than adults, lightest around the eyes, on the lower jaw, the inside of the limbs and the belly and rump, and darkest on the muzzle and the front of the limbs.  Grey and dark brown lambs will be of the dark phase as adults, and light reddish brown ones will be light phase, but there are intermediates and it is not easy to assign some lambs to a particular colour class until they are about six months old." [Doney, 1974}

Because we have always been to St. Kilda in the late summer and for limited visits, we have no idea what the colours the lambs that we saw there were born with or matured to.  Therefore, for the purpose of illustration here, we are using examples from our own flocks which we have observed as they grew from lamb hood to old age.

variety of colours in Soay lambs

Soay lambs are born a variety of colours which change as they mature.  

 cark phase (black) birth coat          self black mature ewe

A very few lambs that appear to be black (self dark) remain so as a adults

  self dark lamb              self  dark ewe

 But some of these self dark black lambs mature to self dark brown as adults

  black Soay lamb     dark phase adult ram

 And others that appear to be black as lambs mature to dark mouflon /wild pattern. 


spay lambs medium chocolate color       light phase self ewe

Some are born medium chocolate or light reddish brown which can alter in
different directions. These twins both matured as light phase adults

medium chocolate Soay ram lamb                           Soay rams lamb

Another dark chocolate ram lamb with white speckles.....

light phase Soay with white markings

matured as a light phase adult with white facial markings.

dark mouflon ram lamb left                  two boreray one Soay ram

The small lighter twin on the left, with his mother and sister, was much
darker when photographed 21 months later. Here he is being escorted
by his two Boreray ram friends of the same age.

  twin Soay lambs          twin Soay lambs

Colouring can change quickly when lambs are small. This dark ewe lamb
(on the left ) with her dark twin brother, were photographed at two weeks
of age.   Five weeks later, at seven weeks old, he had remained the same
basic colour but she had changed to a light phase animal