“Going on” a bit

HORNS!

What a gnarley subject! Shetland breeders’ preferences are as varied as the sheep: there are those who want NO horns in either rams or ewes….those who want the “normal” Shetland appearance…and those who love horns in either sex (we fall under the latter category).

Each shepherd can choose what pleases their eyes, and makes them comfortable. Most Shetland rams have horns, and most ewes do not. But horned ewes, and polled rams are also acceptable in the registry, as well as incompletely developed horns (scurs) rams and ewes.

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Advocates of polled rams say that they are of a milder temperament, and aren’t “dangerous” as horned rams can be. But I submit that ANY ram can be dangerous…or not. A head-butt from any ram can seriously injure a human. There are indeeed bad tempered rams (who shouldn’t be fostered, regardless of whether they are horned or polled), but what made these rams bad-tempered is another issue entirely…

Those who understand how we relate to our rams know that we have a ram-flock of good-tempered fellows. No one who behaved otherwise would stay on our farm. Many have very impressive horns, but some of these boys are genuine sweethearts. And over all the years, we have only culled 2 rams for temperament! This small number was out of 80-some rams who have lived here for various periods of time (some brought in, most born to our flock). Of course, many became wethers for other reasons…

This brings up one big advantage to polled genetics: that there is one less thing to worry about in producing a high quality breeding ram. One is saved from handwringing over a lovely fleece that can’t be passed on because of poor horns.

Having never had a polled ram, I can’t speak from experience, but I would suggest that the mild tempered polled rams come from like-minded stock. OR (more importantly) they are managed in a fashion that encourages good behavior (see our ToughLove page). Their owners aren’t afraid of them, and therefore are able to feel “in charge” of these rams…just as the shepherd should always be “alpha” to their rams!

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Stay tuned…lots more to say about horns!

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