Books for Keepers of Soay Sheep

Practical Husbandry

Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep
Paula Simmons & Carol Ekarius
Storey Books (2001)

A good and comprehensive how-to guide for sheep raising. The book assumes you are raising “standard” sheep, so some of the recommendations need to be downsized for Soay sheep. The chapter on how to correct mis-presentation at lambing time by reaching inside the ewe is a laugher. Soay ewes are way small and there's no way most of us can get a hand in there to assist them with delivery. Fortunately, this problem rarely (never in our experience) occurs in Soay sheep.

If you buy only one sheep book, this should be the one.

The Sheep Book : A Handbook for the Modern Shepherd
Ron Parker
Swallow Press | The Ohio University Press (2001)

Ron Parker has updated and modernized his classic reference, first published about 25 years ago. The flow of the book is strongly oriented to the cycle of breeding - lambing - weaning. For this and other reasons, it's quite different from Simmons & Ekarius (above).

This should be your second book.

Sheep: Small-Scale Sheep Keeping
Sue Weaver [no relation]
Hobby Farms (2005)

Helpful for both beginners and those already experienced with raising sheep.

Storey's Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock
Sue Weaver [no relation]
Storey Books (2010)

Includes a section on miniature sheep and a refreshingly accurate summary of the history and characteristics of Soay sheep.

Veterinary Manuals

Sheep & Goat Medicine
D.G. Pugh
Saunders (2002)

Our veterinarian consults this book. We do too.

The Veterinary Book for Sheep Farmers
David C. Henderson
Old Pond Publishing (1990)

Very readable by the non-veterinarian. The book was written by a British vet for British sheep keepers, so some translation of disease names and sheep terminology is necessary. Here's where we first heard of, for instance, “gimmers.”

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Livestock Protection Dogs : Selection, Care and Training (Second Edition)
Orysia Dawydiak & David Sims
Alpine (2004)

We cannot say enough about this excellent book. We have read it cover-to-cover several times and still haven't absorbed it all. Whenever we have an issue with our dogs, we find help from these pages. If you have dogs for protection, or are thinking about it, read this book.

Breed Conservation

A Conservation Breeding Handbook
D. Phillip Sponenberg & Carolyn J. Christman
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (1995)

A good presentation of the issues involved in conserving rare breeds of livestock. Those interested in setting up a conservation breeding program should read chapters 4 and 9 carefully.

Managing Breeds for A Secure Future : Strategies for Breeders and Breed Associations
D. Phillip Sponenberg & Donald E. Bixby
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (2007)

This second how-to manual from ALBC takes a different tack. Whereas the first (above) focused on breeding schemes for conservation, this one has a lot to say about breeders and breed organizations, what to do and what not to do. The authors deserve credit for addressing the difficulties faced by many breed organizations. An interesting book, indeed.

Spinning and Fleece

The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook
Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius
Storey Books (2011)

Priscilla seldom is at a loss for words, but this book left her speechless withadmiration. It is comprehensive; it is accurate; it provides a vast amount of informationon about 200 different mammals and their fleece, mostly sheep but also goats, rabbits,dogs, llamas, musk ox, you name it. And besides, it is beautifully produced in terms oflayout, photos, binding and even paper quality, and a pleasure to both hold and read. You can find a gushing review on Priscilla's blog, and at last count over 130 reviews by other admiring fans on Amazon.

Carol and Deborah subsequently published a "portable" version, The Field Guide to Fleece: 100 Sheep Breeds & How to Use Their Fibers, in 2013. A paperback, it is in fact an entirely new resource, organized alphabetically, a wonderfully useful quick reference guide. Same great photos, same elegant writing and indispensable information.

There are of course dozens, if not hundreds, of excellent and helpful books on spinning and weaving. We would recommend all of them except for one small problem: we do not gather our animals' fleece and so we do not have an extensive collection of fleece-related books. If you have read the Sourcebook cover to cover and your copy of the Field Guide is dog-earred and worn, contact us (or Deborah directly) and we promise to help you find more spinning/weaving books.


Fences for Pasture & Garden
Gail Damerow
Storey Books (1992)

Very comprehensive; the best book we've found on fencing. Our copy is dog-eared.

Building Small Barns, Sheds and Shelters
Monte Burch
Storey Books (1983)

A useful introduction to and review of basic construction techniques: framing, setting doors and windows, roof construction, wiring and plumbing. If you are a first-timer needing to build a structure for your Soay sheep, you'd do well to read this book before you saw that first board.

Practical Pole Building Construction
Leigh Seddon
Williamson Publishing Co. (1985)

This book tells you how to build outbuildings large and small, emphasizing the use of poles for the basic structure. It had a big influence on the look of our shelters.

Scientific Monographs

Island Survivors: The Ecology of the Soay Sheep of St Kilda
Edited by P.A. Jewell, C. Milner & J. Morton Boyd
The Athlone Press (1974)

This seminal work, long out of print and now a collector's item, is worth putting on your serious Santa list and worth tagging on Amazon, eBay or craigslist so you'll know when a copy comes on the market. It consists of 14 scientific papers written by members of the scientific team that studied the Soay sheep of St Kilda begining in the 1950's. All of the chapters are rigorous and while a few quite technical, most of the book is approachable and immensely rewarding to Soay enthusiasts. Over forty years after its appearance, Island Survivors remains the fundamental reference work on Soay sheep.

Soay Sheep : Dynamics and Selection in an Island Population
Edited by T.H. Clutton-Brock & J.M. Pemberton
Cambridge University Press (2003)

In many ways a sequel to Island Survivors, this book also consists of a series of scientific papers, some of general interest and some quite technical. There is a nice appendix that summarizes the then-current thinking on the inheritance of coat color and horn phenotype in Soay sheep. Available in paperback (2004).