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.
Soay lambs are born a variety of colours which change as they mature.
A very few lambs that appear to be black (self dark) remain so as a adults
But some of these self dark black lambs mature to self dark brown as adults
And others that appear to be black as lambs mature to dark mouflon /wild pattern.
Some are born medium chocolate or light reddish brown which can alter in
different directions. These twins both matured as light phase adults
Another dark chocolate ram lamb with white speckles.....
matured as a light phase adult with white facial markings.
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.
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.