Barney is definitely one of my favorite sheep. He doesn’t have a very handsome face compared to his pasturemates, but he’s so sweet I say he’s a cute sort of homely. I always call him my puppy-sheep because when I’m out with the boys he follows me around wanting pets and crunchies like a puppy.
Every morning when I let the boys out the back of the barn, Barney runs off with the others, then doubles back to see if I’m still leaning on the bottom half of the dutch doors watching them, and if so, to see if I have any treats for him. (I usually do.)
Pardon the dark pictures, the weather is gloomy today.
“Do you have any treats for me?”
Look how he even tilts his head, just like a curious puppy. Today, when he came up to the doors to get his treats, I noticed a tiny little smattering of gray hairs on his nose and chin that definitely weren’t there before.
“Barney!” I said. “You’re going gray on me!”
“Gray, shmay,” says Barney, “Where are my crunchies?”
This prompted me to run out and take pictures of everybody’s noses to document the different patterns of gray or lack thereof.
I’m not sure exactly how old Duke is, but he’s definitely no younger than eight, which makes him the oldest sheep in the flock. Despite his age, as far as I can tell his nose has pretty much exactly the same amount of gray on it that it had when he was two, or however old he actually was when I got him. He has a somewhat freckled face that helps disguise whether he’s developing any new gray hairs or not.
Eight is pretty old for a breeding ram, but he’s still in good shape, no signs of arthritis or missing teeth or trouble keeping weight on. Maybe a little less aggressive than he used to be, but that could easily be the difference between a confident, mature boss ram and a very young boss ram with a lot to prove. Allowing for the difference between a dark rainy photo and a dry sunny photo, he doesn’t look much different now than he did circa early 2014.
“I am so handsome, all the girls love me!”
Nope, not much has changed about him at all.
“I saw you give Barney treats! I’m the matriarch, I should get treats first! Where are my treats?”
Lady is definitely the grayest nose in the flock, but she and all her lambs have started to develop a white muzzle before they’re even grown, so I don’t know whether to call it premature gray or just a facial marking that’s slow to appear. I don’t know about other breeds, but Soay colors and markings don’t really stabilize until they’re full grown at three, so I lean toward calling it a marking. She, Barney, and Duchess are all six years old this year, so it could also be a little of both.
“Gray hairs? What gray hairs? Are you saying I’m old?”
Duchess is of course still flawlessly beautiful, gray hairs or not. The gray on her lips and chin is definitely a marking, all my Soays have that same pattern, usually from birth. She has a few gray hairs on top of her nose, but not as many as it looks like. Most of the “gray” is just light reflecting off of her unusually glossy black hair. None of her various descendants have much if any gray on their noses either, unless one counts spots, which I don’t.
I tried to get pictures of all of Lady’s family to document the way the white muzzle markings develop, but I didn’t have much luck due to her having skipped a year lambing and too many white spots on her middle two lambs to tell. So “nose goes gray at some point between six months and five years of age” is about as far as I can narrow it down, unless I go digging through five years of pictures looking for shots of just Neo’s nose, which is more effort than I want to put into this impulse project.
“Gray hairs? I’m just a baby!”
No gray hairs on Danny or Marigold yet, but since Lady didn’t have a lamb in 2017, the next youngest member of the family is three-year-old Holly, whose nose isn’t going to show much graying as she ages, for obvious reasons.
“My nose has always been white!”
Four-year-old Will Scarlet isn’t much better. His face was so freckled to begin with it’s hard to tell what’s changed, if anything. He also wasn’t keen on pulling his face out of the hay to have his picture taken, so the best one I got looks like he’s blowing raspberries at Johnny.
“My face is devastatingly handsome, as always!”
At five years old, Neo has a white nose like his mother. Neo is my other puppy-sheep. He does have a handsome face, even with all the little scars from getting beat up over the years, poor guy.
“Everybody’s so mean to me, I think I should get lots of treats and chin-scratches!”
The only member of Princess’s lineage to have a white nose is Chestnut, whose muzzle is completely gray at not-quite-three years old. His twin, Cedar, doesn’t have a single speck of gray on his nose, nor does his five-year-old full sister Nova, which I think lends weight to the theory of the white muzzles being a slow-appearing marking, not age-related graying.
“I think it makes me look distinguished!”
It’s fun to keep a breed with such a variety of colors and patterns. Shetlands have a lot of fun colors and patterns too, but I only have five Shetlands, so I don’t think my flock does justice to the breed’s impressive variety. Liam does have some very cute tan freckles on his nose, but I couldn’t photograph them today due to his nose being very firmly planted in his breakfast. Oh well. I love all of their dear little noses no matter what color they are.