Monday, 18 February 2013

The Skuddlebutt on Skudde

Rare breed. Endangered.

About the Skudde Sheep: The Skudde is a Nordic, short-tailed heather sheep belonging to the family of the mischwolligen or heath sheep. Its original homeland was East Prussia and the Baltic States. Evidence suggests it was in existence during the Iron Age and they are possibly direct descendants of the Stone Age sheep. Known as the 'sheep of the Vikings’, they accompanied the Vikings on their travels. The Skudde is culturally important and is also genetically of immense value as they are one of the purest breeds still in existence.

Uses: The wool mixture typical of this breed consists of fine wool fibers, dispersed with short hairs and course cover hair. Traditionally, Skudde would have shed their fleece naturally but this trait has been bred out. The wool was used for rugs and blankets in attractive natural colours. The guard hair is evenly distributed with the wool which makes it appropriate for felting as well as water repelling properties. Shepherds of these flocks always wore hooded cloaks made from Skudde felt. A strong rope can be produced by spinning and plying the wool. Pelts were used for rugs and leather. Males have the snail shaped horns which were used, along with bone for buttons and toggles. The colors are white, brown, black, and gray. White Skuddes have small pigment spots on the head. Although the meat is held to be a delicacy in circles of connoisseurs, for economic reasons (like slow growth rate) they are not kept for their meat. They are suited for pasturing more barren areas where they are indiscriminate in their browsing and foraging habits (like thistles, weeds and other scrub) and are ideal for landscape conservation.

My spinning Experience. Another rare and endangered breed that I have been most fortunate to work with.  Coming to me washed and carded, I didn’t have the opportunity to work with the raw fleece. I did get to experience the fine wool and longer cover hairs which I spun together giving an overall medium coarse spun yarn. Absolutely not next-to-skin-soft for this Princess but would make fine outerwear.

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