The Shetland is one of the smallest of native UK breeds. It has a small tan-coloured face and tan legs. Both genders can have rounded horns, but it is more common in males than females. The high quality fleece can be moorit (brown, grey or black) or white.
The breed has been native to the Scottish Shetland Islands since the eight century. It is a primitive breed thought to have Scandinavian origins. Shetland sheep continues to thrive on the islands, under the supervision of the Shetland Flock Book Trust since its creation in 1927. The breed is also found in other parts of the UK, with the Shetland Sheep Society established in 1985 to promote the breed away from its native home.
Suited to the climate and environment of the Shetland Islands, this hardy maternal breed will thrive in extreme conditions and rear lambs much bigger than herself if crossed with a terminal sire breed. It has found favour away from the islands in specialist conservation grazing schemes, and is enjoyed by smallholders looking for a small sheep to manage.
The Shetland Sheep Society promotes the breed as desirable for its high quality, fine fleece and tasty, sweet meat. It describes the sheep as gentle natured.