Counting Sheep

We had a day off today and visited Cockermouth Cumbria on our way to Bowness tomorrow, and our final gig in England (this tour, anyway).  We went to the Lakeland Sheep and Wool Centre, and sat in on their “sheep show”.

There are a few countries in the world where it seems there are more sheep per capita than there are humans.  New Zealand boasts 12 sheep for every human in the country!  There are lots in Australia, and also in the UK.  So it was time to learn a bit more about these fuzzy useful animals.  John helped out at sheep shearing time a number of years ago on an Australian sheep property, and he was interested too.

They had 17 different models of sheep on display.  This isn’t all of the varieties: there are about 70 in the UK and over 200 in the world.  Some of them have long wool, some kinky wool, some very soft wool. We saw some today that had horns – one with four, and one with three. 

Depending on the kind of wool the sheep produces, it is used for clothing, rug making or even insulation. I have a Merino sweater (jumper) from New Zealand we bought last time we were there that is combined with possum fur, and is beautifully soft.  Of course, lamb is also delicious to eat, and the lanolin from the wool is still used in cosmetics, and keeps sheep shearers’ hands soft. It’s interesting, though, that sheep farmers now make more money from the meat. These days it costs more to hire the sheep-shearer than they make from selling the wool. We’re clearly not buying enough yarn!

We also enjoyed a display of what sheep herding dogs can do. They had two kinds: Border Collies and Huntaways from New Zealand. The Collie successfully herded a gaggle of geese around the stage, following the called directions of our announcer. It was amazing how effective he was. What smart dogs they are!  One of the Huntaways then showed how he could bark… and how he can run on the backs of sheep to get from one side of a flock to the other. This is useful in New Zealand, where the flocks are huge. There, the herders use both kinds of dogs as a team to keep their flocks in order.

We will certainly see more sheep on this trip. Now we know a bit more about them.

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