Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rooing Gutes!

Sweeping up the tufts of dog furballs around the house yesterday made me think of the Gute sheep we saw on Gotland. They were "rooing"...naturally shedding their fleeces... the way primitive breeds of sheep do, and I was able to capture a pretty good picture of it.
I took these photos of a small flock of the Gutes that remain on the south western shores of the island. In 1920 only 20 of these Viking age sheep remained, but thanks to efforts on both Gotland and Faro, this breed seems saved from extinction (tho' I wouldn't say it's thriving based on how hard they were to find!)

Originally belonging to the Finnish Landrace family of sheep, the Gutes from Gotland were horned (even the ewes and sometimes with 4 horns, not just 2!) and came in many colors, as you can see from the various photos here. The Vikings, who frequented Gotland, crossed them with Romanov and Karakul sheep that they brought from their travels in Russia. As a result, the Gute genes were diluted, the animals lost their horns, stopped rooing and became all grey. This crossed sheep, then became it's own breed and is what we know today as the Gotland (Palsfar) sheep.
I'd have loved to have found a fleece of Gute to buy while there so I could experiment with it- I imagine it felts really well- but the Gutes were hard to find and, as you can see, they still had their fleeces on anyway! Bunches of their wool was lying all about the paddock that the sheep had already rooed (sp?), but I could only reach a few locks that had dropped on the ground and nobody was around to inquire about purchasing a Gute fleece, so I'll have to content myself with felting this absolutely gorgeous Gotland fleece I was able to purchase there. The Gotland ewe pictured here with her triplets was grazing in the yard of an amazing 13th century church in Tofta.