Scottish Blackface Sheep & Sheepdogs
The sheep and dog being shown at the Milwaukee Highland Games are Scottish Blackface and Border Collie dog. These sheep freely roam most areas of Scotland today and have a very long history. They are very hardy and have a self sufficient nature, easy lambers and excellent mothers and as such are well suited to the Northern Climates of North America. The sheep shown at the 2007 Milwaukee Highland Games have been bred by Laparoscopic Artificial Insemination from semen imported from High Index Sire Reference Flocks in Scotland.
The origins of the Scottish Blackface (SBF) are very unclear. There are several regional variations in type which range from the Perthshire Longwool to the lighter framed short wooled types, with the Newton Stewart type being the most refined and improved but no less hardy. Today many of these types are intermixed and variations can easily be seen in modern stock. Within the breed there are 3 basic wool types with different staple lengths and degrees of fineness for use in carpet, mattress and weaving for the Harris Tweed® trade.
Husbandry of the Old Scottish Short wooled breeds was completely changed when the SBF took over around 1752. They quickly took over the Highlands where previously cattle ruled. At the same time rivalry between Cheviots & SBF was intense. At first the Cheviot was preferred as its better wool found a ready market when Napoleonic Wars cut off imported Spanish wools.
Today the Blackfaced Hill breeds are basic to the UK sheep industry. One hundred and fifty years ago their presence was hardly acknowledged by pedigree breeders who thought of them as the only ones able to survive in such dreary waste where they are found in Central & Northern Scotland.