or more accurately…. the dilemma of horns.
In my role as shepherd, nothing fascinates me more than the quest for great horns on my four horned Jacob ewes. Nothing thrills me more than looking over my ewe flock and seeing all those strong laterals and nothing has been harder to achieve. (That’s not to say that I don’t love the horns on my rams) After years of ewe lambs with strong laterals, pride has jumped up and bitten me in the butt once again.
This year’s “superstar” ewe lamb was everything I had hoped for – wonderful markings, excellent fleece, and a pedigree to salivate over. The lamb that would never be sold, would take an exalted place in the Patchwork ewe flock, and would delight me just to look at her – not to mention continuing in the tradition of her well- horned female ancestors producing more lovely horned beauties.
As time went by, I waited for the tiny little laterals (and I mean TINY – too small to even be called scurs) to either fall off and regrow or start to strengthen. It was a bittersweet day when I loaded her up on her way to a pet home. I was very happy that she went to a good home, but very sad that she didn’t have a place here.
Horns in some breeds of sheep are sex-linked – rams have horns and ewes don’t – the ewes are genetically “hornless”, which refers to the sex-linked characteristic. They are not genetically “polled”. Both Jacob rams and Jacob ewes have horns. Horns are not sex-linked in Jacob Sheep. Jacob Sheep are genetically “horned” with horns in both sexes. Where does a ewe fall who has solid top horns and weak/scurred/no laterals? There are many theories and I’m going to let you find them on your own. I am not a geneticist and I’m sure there are more reasons for weak laterals than I’ve considered.
I always look to the ewe line when purchasing/keeping a ram. I want to see the boy’s mother, grandmother, sisters, and great grandmothers. This girl comes from a long line of strong four horned ewes. Will I use her in my flock? No. Will I breed her dam again? No – but only because her dam is old and retired. Will I breed her sire again? Yes. One weak lateraled ewe lamb is not reason to cull a line – it is reason to watch and learn.
I’ve been accused of blaming the “sins of the son on his mother”, which is possibly abit drastic in regards to sheep 🙂 But then, maybe I shouldn’t have named my “superstar” ewe lamb after my ex-mother-in-law 😀
Breeding Jacob Sheep is never boring and we are never allowed to be complacent or rest on our laurels. That’s what makes it challenging and fun!