Rare sheep thrive on nature reserve

By Sarah ChambersA THRIVING flock of tough rare sheep on an East Anglian nature reserve has produced 30 bouncing lambs less than a year after its arrival.

By Sarah Chambers

A THRIVING flock of tough rare sheep on an East Anglian nature reserve has produced 30 bouncing lambs less than a year after its arrival.

Four Manx Loghtan rams and 25 ewes arrived at the Minsmere reserve last year after they were bought by RSPB as a tribute to an elderly widow - and now the flock numbers almost 60.

Josephine Boraston, who died on the Isle of Anglesey aged 85, left the RSPB more than £2 million in her will.


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Some of the money was spent on establishing a flock of fawn-coloured Manx Loghtans at the reserve, a type of sheep which the millionaire bred for many years.

The flock was brought in to graze the reserve's heathland area. Keeping the vegetation under control helps encourage certain species of butterfly and other insects, as well as ground nesting birds.

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Its arrival followed a similar scheme started at the reserve two years ago when Koniks, a type of wild pony, were introduced in the wetland areas.

Ian Barthorpe, marketing and publicity officer at the reserve, said it was pleased at how the flock had settled in.

“They are doing their job in that they are helping our rabbit population to keep the vegetation down on the grass heath areas,” he added.

“It is not particularly high-quality grazing, which is why we have an old breed of sheep like the Manx Loghtan because most of the modern commercial breeds would not be able to thrive in that quality grazing.

“They are helping the management of the reserve through the grazing they are doing. They are obviously thriving because we currently have 30 lambs from the flock. They are now anything up to a month old.

“We are pretty pleased that we have got good numbers. It's difficult when you get a new stock of livestock to be certain how they'll settle in and how successful they'll be.”

sarah.chambers@eadt.co.uk

FACTFILE

n The Manx Loghtan is descended from the primitive type of multi-horned sheep that once roamed throughout many parts of the British Isles.

n Native to the Isle of Man, the sturdy, rugged breed almost died out in the 1950s. In 1997 a survey found 1,540 breeding Loghtan females in the UK.

n The horns of the ewe are small, but the rams' horns are strong and long. They can have up to six horns.

n The name “Loghtan” is believed to come from the Manx words lugh (meaning mouse) and dhoan (meaning brown).

n The name could refer to the sheep's light-brown fleece. Lambs are born black, but change from two weeks old to brown.

n Loghtan wool is normally left undyed and is used to weave lightweight garments. Manx tartans are also made from this wool.

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