Meet our quartet of rare Jacob sheep

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Some of you may be aware that we’ve recently celebrated Chinese New Year! Unlike the new year in our calendar, Chinese New Year falls on a different date every year in January or February, this year having been celebrated on February 19.

Each year is associated with a different animal, with this year representing the sheep, ram or goat (not everyone agrees on which one is correct!). If you were born in 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, Chinese folklore says you may be wise, gentle and kind-hearted – does that sound familiar? It seems only right that this week we should take a look at one of our farm animals, the humble sheep!

The sheep we keep here at Flamingo Land, however, are not just ordinary sheep. They are a rare breed called Jacob sheep, who are usually raised on farms for their wool, meat and leather. They are, however, also kept as pets, as guard animals to protect farms and defend other livestock, and of course in zoos! We keep four here, called Badger, Domino, Katie and Peter. Badger is aptly named as Jacob sheep have badger-like markings on their faces, with black cheeks, a black muzzle and a white patch running down the front.

The rest of their body is a mixture of black and white patches. Their most distinguishing feature, however, is their multiple horns – although most British Jacobs have two, they can also have four or as many as six. Both rams and ewes are horned, and these are usually black in colour but can also be black and white striped.

Jacob sheep can also be found in America, but since the British Jacob has been selectively bred for certain characteristics over hundreds of years whilst their American counterparts have been largely left alone (and so still resemble their original wild ancestors), the two breeds have diverged from each other significantly. The body shape of American Jacobs actually more resembles that of a goat!

Our Jacob sheep can be spotted in the Muddy Duck Farm, just off the zoo’s main square. The zoo is currently open during weekends, with the theme park reopening fully on March 21.