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American RBST Foundation Flock USA0001

Premier Breeder of
British Registered Soay sheep

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Kathie and the girls heading to pasture
photo Steve Werblow Deere & Company, Homestead magazine
(winter 2006)

                                                               About Soay Sheep

The Soay (Ovis aries) is a small Scottish wool sheep which is often grouped with the northern short-tailed breeds but it is in fact more primitive. No one is certain of its origins, however, it is thought to be the remnant of a prehistoric semi-domestic sheep brought to Britain prior to the invasion of the Romans; certainly the Soay is the UK's oldest surviving livestock breed. Because of its broad genetic diversity it has been able to adapt to the challenging island environment of St. Kilda (off Scotland) where it has lived feral for as much as four thousand  years. Since the late nineteenth century conservationists and farmers on the mainland in the UK have kept Soay in small numbers and a few are now found in Europe and the United States as well.

British Soay*, as these sheep are referred to in America, are the historic sheep of St. Kilda, they are participants in a global conservation program and they are all registered in the UK. The flock originated with six Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) registered animals exported from England to Montreal, Canada on January 10, 1990. After an eight year quarantine in Canada they were imported into the United States by Southern Oregon Soay Farms, a process that took three years. These sheep (and their registered offspring) are members of the only satellite flock outside of Great Britain that is recognized by the RBST.

Every RBST Soay in North America can be traced back to Southern Oregon Soay Farms flock USA0001**. It is the foundation flock for all British Soay on the continent.

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                                  Wild Soay ewes grazing on Hirta  St. Kilda, island of Boreray in distance
                                                                      photo by Kathie Miller

British Soay are various shades of brown (dark phase) or tan (light phase) with a wild or mouflon pattern; white belly, white rump patch and occasional white markings on the face, legs and/or body. Rams horns vary from tight to wide curls. Self-color (solid black or tan) and polling (no horns) in ewes which is seen in great numbers on St.Kilda do not occur here yet. With the introduction of new genetics from the UK in 2007 and 2010 and strategic breeding plans I expect self color and polling will begin to appear here in the not too distant future.

All of the sheep have a naturally short tail, ewes who have lambed shed their soft wool in the spring after lambing which can be rooed (hand plucked) in the June or July. However, non breeders, many rams and wethers often do not shed and will need to be shorn, especially in hot climates and where fly strike problems occur. Ewes lamb very easily with few problems and they are excellent mothers. Even older ewes often twin and rarely have triplets. As browsers they thrive on land often considered too marginal for use by more domesticated breeds and are useful in eradicating blackberries and other noxious weeds. Females commonly weigh less than 50 pounds and rams less than 80 which makes them easy to handle, even for one person. Their light weight makes them easy on pastures. Soay are delightful to live with and very forgiving (they survive when many breeds would not) making them an ideal livestock breed for beginners who often don't recognize early signs of problems. One of their most endearing qualities is their curiosity. They are considerably hardier than domestic breeds and when patiently handled are easy to manage and can become quite tame.

Because the US flock is a controlled population, a small group with complete breeding records (housed in the UK), it also provides a unique opportunity to study inheritance in sheep, behavior as well as physical characteristics. The wool is prized as a novelty by hand spinners and artisan weavers and it is especially suited for felting. The low fat, tasty meat is ideal for personal consumption or gourmet meat markets and the sheep's value for conservation grazing / forest fuel reduction is just beginning to be recognized in the United States.

In raising these little sheep there is also tremendous satisfaction in knowing that we are helping to save a very special flock from extinction in North America. Imports of live sheep from the UK have not been allowed since 1990 so what we have here now needs to be treasured and thoughtfully preserved as a historical archive, an undiluted genetic reservoir for the future. Continued registration with the RBST is critical to that conservation.


                                                                          British Soay ewe lamb                                           

Who are we and how did we discover Soay Sheep?

We are Val Dambacher and Kathie Miller, two Pacific Northwest friends from Oregon, who fell in love with these marvelous little Scottish sheep and whose husbands gladly encouraged our association so they would not have to listen to us talk about Soay.

Val (now retired) had raised sheep since her move to Oregon in 1992 while I had respected my husband's request "to bring anything home, but sheep!" For 25 years I raised everything else, until one evening in 1996 the phone rang and the woman on the other end of the line said she needed a home for some SMALL and very RARE..... I didn't hear the rest. Within the week I was a sheep farmer. My only regret now is that I did not know about them when I was living in southern California; they would have been the perfect animals for my "farmette" in the city.

As our passion grew we made friends in both Canada and Great Britain. With their help in 1998, 1999 and 2000 we imported the only flock of Soay outside of Europe from Montreal, Canada to Oregon. In 1999 we were able to get the sheep reinstated in the Combined Flock Book of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (registry) in England and thus began the British Soay project in North America. As a result of these opportunities and of our travels throughout the UK, including St. Kilda, conserving this faunal treasure became our mission which I have continued since Val's retirement. US born Soay registered with the RBST are reciprocal (interchangeable) with Soay in Britain and as a result I was able to establish an artificial insemination program with the help and tireless support of Christine Williams a breeder in the UK. With semen she had collected from four of her registered rams the very narrow gene pool that we had been forced to work with from the beginning was finally widened. The first "AI" lambs were born in 2008, a second round in 2010, a third in 2011 and a fourth in April of 2014.

Southern Oregon Soay Farms is a member of the Soay Sheep Society (UK), the RBST (UK),   the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) and Sheep and Friends, A Circle of British Soay Conservationists (US). Our sheep are all registered in the Combined Flock Book of the RBST and we were enrolled in the federal Voluntary Scrapie Program from 1999 until is was discontinued in 2013.

                                         Kathie and Val relaxing with Maya and Lindy
                                               "Maya", Kathie, Val and "Lindy" (Nene gosling)

        Researching and keeping these sheep has been my passion for nearly 20 years,
                          I hope you enjoy the information on this site and find it helpful.

             UPDATE: Kathie Miller passed away on March 30, 2015. One of her hopes was to keep this website active for anyone who was interested in learning about Soay sheep and raising them. Val is hoping to continue her legacy by leaving the page as-is. If you have questions about keeping Soay sheep feel free to e-mail or call (209) 588-3879

Thanks, Val.
        Click on the links below to learn more about their history and how to care for them.

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British Soay is a term used only in the U S and Canada to distinguish RBST registered Soay sheep
                                       from North American Soay Sheep which are only registered in the United States.

* *
  AI sheep will also have a Gaerllwyd or Sandle prefix from semen imported from the UK by Soay Farms.


Raising Soay Sheep

Viewpoint, a monthly farm newsletter  is designed as an educational, entertaining and useful tool to enhance the readerís knowledge and enjoyment of this breed and its care. Husbandry, resources, management ideas. PDF Index

History of Soay Sheep
History is an important component of any breed conservation program and it has been critical to this one. Without it pedigrees and databases have little meaning.

Soay Conservation
Conserving Soay Sheep in America   why we need to be                    committed to the conservation of endangered livestock breeds and in particular to the ancient British Soay sheep of St. Kilda.

Conservation Breeding Program

The Sheep of St. Kilda, Soay and Boreray
A website dedicated to information about the two unique breeds of
sheep Soay and Boreray that live feral on the islands of St. Kilda
with a
photo gallery of Soay sheep as they are found in their native habitat and
in the UK
Color and Pattern in Soay Sheep
, Photographic descriptions of dark
phase, light phase coloration and Mouflon/wild and self patterns in Soay
Sheep on St. Kilda

Wool & Meat
Fiber: Shedding, rooing (hand plucking) and collecting wool. The
double coated Soay produces soft, short wool that makes it ideal for
felting but
it can be hand spun or commercially processed into
yarn for use by handweavers
Meat:  Low cholesterol heritage meat for personal consumption
and gourmet meat markets and restaurants.

Conservation Grazing & Forest Fuel Reduction

Of Sheep and Friends, A Circle of British Soay Conservationists.
A circle of friends, located in all parts of the USA, who
meet annually and who are dedicated to the conservation of this very
special flock of sheep.
Breeders list, articles, calendar of events, goals and


Links and Literature Our Links and Literature page got so long and cumbersome I have broken it into three separate pages
Links  on the internet, places in the UK to see Soay sheep,
Resources for flock management
Literature DVDs, Books on a variety of topics related to Soay sheep
endangered livestock breed conservation, Livestock Protection Dogs
and St. Kilda

Resources and Catalog Suppliers Livestock  handling equipment
(including the US version of a British hurdle), veterinary
supplies, lambing supplies, halters, fencing supplies, Soay baby ear

Photo Galleries of Soay Sheep (our own and St. Kilda)  
          British Soay Sheep pictures:  Southern Oregon Soay Farms
          St. Kilda pictures:   Wild Soay Sheep on St. Kilda (Hirta)


Kathie Miller
Southern Oregon Soay Farms
P.O. Box 1382
Merlin, Oregon 97532 USA
(541) 955-8171

Thanks for Visiting!
Thanks for Visiting!

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