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Getting started

Farm & Fiberworks


Part 4
Picking out a Jacob Sheep

bsarah.jpg (18995 bytes)When you're ready to pick out your sheep, you'll probably be overwhelmed by all the choices. A good breeder will help you choose the right sheep for you, but you can be prepared by understanding these major issues:

Conformation. This is the body build of the sheep. Unless you've looked at a lot of sheep this will be a tough thing to determine. Ask your breeder to point out variations in conformation. With Jacobs, you'll also see various body builds, some primitive and others more modern.

JSBA Standards. JSBA Standards identify what a Jacob Sheep should be. They come in two classes:

Standards, characteristics which all sheep must meet to be registered as Jacobs
Preferences, characteristics which would make an "ideal" Jacob, but aren't necessary for registration.

chewie-small.jpg (7144 bytes)By all means, buy only those animals that meet the Standards. A breeder will call these registered or register-able. Use the Preferences to determine the overall quality. No sheep will meet all the Preferences, and not all the Preferences may matter to you. These sheep exhibit a variety of traits, so there's quite a bit of latitude in what makes a Jacob a Jacob.

Fleece quality. If you spin, you probably know what you want to see in a fleece. These are some of the issues to consider:

Evenness. Is the wool the same length and quality throughout the fleece?
Breaks. Are weaknesses in the individual fibers that would cause the strands to break when pulled?
Fineness. Is the fleece fine or course?
Handle.  How does the fiber feel in your hands?
Spotting. Do you see black freckles in the white portions of the fleece? Part the fleece and look at the skin for freckles. This will give your white wool a heathery look. Depending on your perspective, this could be a good or bad feature.
Quilting. Are the black and white portions of the fleece the same length?
Kemp. Does the fleece have patches of bristly hair, especially on the shoulders?

bock4.jpg (9284 bytes)Horns. Horn quality is a challenge with the Jacobs. Look for balance to the horns, and fusion between multiple horns. Two or four-horned Jacobs are equally true to the breed, so pick your preference. Two-horned sheep have more solid sets and seem less prone to horn problems. Look for a wide sweep, especially in rams. Narrow sweeping horns can eventually grow into the face, requiring regular horn trimming (which is just about as fun as it sounds).

Horn quality is more of a challenge with four-horned Jacobs, but the arrangement is so unique and dramatic you'll probably want a four horn sheep at some point. Good horns in four-horned Jacobs are harder to come by, but worth seeking out. Look for balance, space between the top and side horns, and upright or rear-tipping horns.

Personality. Jacobs have distinct personalities - much more so than many breeds of sheep. We believe that personality and temperment are both genetic and environmental. At Swallow Lane we know each animal we sell and can give you a clear idea of what you'll be facing with each sheep you purchase. Be sure to discuss personalities when you shop. You'll be much better off starting with an easy-going animal than a skittish one. Again, you'll have to trust your breeder's judgment on personality.

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