Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Jacob Sheep

As November's Yarn of the Month is West Yorkshire Spinners Jacob, I thought it would be really interesting to find out a bit more about the sheep itself.  I am no expert so I have consulted two excellent books that I own, 'The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook' by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius and Sue Blacker's 'Pure Wool'.  I have also looked at several websites and I will pop links to these at the bottom of this post.

The Jacob originated in the Middle East and is said to be the oldest breed of sheep in the world.  They were introduced to Great Britain during the 17th Century where they were kept to decorate the parklands of country estates due to their 'decorative' appearance.  

I presume this 'decorative' use was one of the reasons why numbers of Jacob sheep declined, as country houses and land were later sold off.  When the Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) was created in 1974 the Jacob was placed on their watch list as a minority breed.  
Image Details: Jacob's Ram by Dave Merrett via Flickr

Thanks to the work of The Jacob Sheep Society and the RBST the Jacob sheep is no longer on the watch list.  There are 8000 breeding sheep registered and around 3000 lambs registered annually.  Jacob can be found living all over Great Britain.  It is worth noting that in the U.S the Jacob is still classed as a rare breed.  It is also worth mentioning that due to different breeding programs in the two countries the British Jacob is much larger than its American relation.

Jacob are one of the most instantly recognisable sheep breeds.  They have a white fleece with, what the breed standard describes as, 'well defined' coloured patches.  For this reason alone the Wool Marketing Board classes them as 'coloured' sheep.  Both male and female sheep have between two and four horns.

So some Jacob fleece facts.......  
Handle: Medium with a good degree of springiness
Staple Length: 7.5cm - 18cm
Micron Count: 25 - 27.5 (Bluefaced Leicester is 26 - 26.5)
The breed standard advises that there should no little or no kemp in the fleece. 
West Yorkshire Spinners Jacob Aran

The different colours on the fleece can vary in texture and staple length and this is worth keeping in mind if you are purchasing fleece or wool from smaller flocks.  

The rise in Jacob sheep has allowed fleeces to be spun on a greater commercial basis such as the West Yorkshire Spinners Jacob that we stock. As a result of the blending larger numbers of fleeces the shades produced have more uniformity to them. 

Your can read more about the yarn in November's Yarn of the Month post. 

Jacob Sheep Society

Rare breeds Survival Trus

I wrote about the Corriedale sheep here several month ago 

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