Ouessant Sheep

Ouessant sheep are intelligent, inquisitive, and renowned for their character, hardiness and for their status as the smallest naturally occurring breed of sheep in the world.  

The breed comes from the small island of that name, about 12 miles off the most westerly point of Brittany.   Dr Ryder (Sheep and Man, Duckworth, 1983) placed the Ouessant in the northern short-tail sheep group of breeds, because it has quite a short tail and a similar range of colours. 

These charming little sheep are claimed to be the smallest in the world, with the ram's shoulder height up to 48cm (a little over 18in) and the ewes up to 45cm. Comparable measurements for the smallest British breed, the primitive Soay are 51-61cm for rams and 49-54 for ewes.  Rams carry impressive, outward turning horns; the ewes do not have horns.  Tails are naturally short and are not docked.

The exceptionally small size of the Ouessant is attributed to the poor grazing on the island, which led to the selection of small sheep for breeding. The island is composed of the same ancient rock as the Land's End and Lizard peninsulas.  The breed was first brought to the UK in the early 2000s and remains on the EU and UK lists of ‘At Risk’ rare and heritage breeds.