“Bare, bleak and treeless Quessant, the notorious island of terror… The infrequent visitor sees funny flocks of little sheep, scarcely twice as large as hares.”* 1901
There are a number of contributing factors to explain the smaller than average size of Ouessant sheep. Past selection pressures that produced the diminutive sheep are largely not a consideration for owners today. Height is a polygenic trait, this means in addition to factors such as environment and diet, height is controlled by a number of different genes. But without those historic selection pressures, genetic drift allows the breed height to increase unless attention is paid to selecting animals which meet the breed standard.
With this in mind, many owners like to measure their sheep, the easiest time to do this is soon after they have been shorn. Pick a level solid surface with good grip to stand your sheep on. A path next to a wall will provide a good base as well as restricting to a degree the amount of movement your sheep can make. Calmly wait for your sheep to settle and ensure that their feet are evenly placed and that they are standing squarely.
Taking your time at this stage means less stress for the sheep and for you in the long run. Height is measured at the withers (the boney prominence of the shoulder blades on the sheeps topline).
With the sheep correctly positioned, you need only read off the height on the measure.
Measuring your sheep at one, two and three years of age will give you a good idea of their growth curve and when they have reached their final height.
*Source The News – Frederick Maryland 1901
Author: Renée Hemming