Shaggy sweetheart breed of sheep 'taking the world by storm'

  • 25/09/2018

A breed of sheep described as 'more like dogs than sheep' is expected to turn heads at this year's New Zealand Agricultural Show.

The Valais Blacknose is described as 'the unbelievably cute breed of sheep taking the world by storm'.

They will be showcased at the New Zealand Cup and Show Week in Christchurch in November.

Breeders Sally and Lindsay Strathdee says their appearance is matched by their warm temperament, which is "more like dogs than sheep."

They first fell in love with the Valais Blacknose breed five years ago, after making the sea-change from Christchurch to Motueka.

Mrs Strathdee, a former midwife, spotted the breed on the internet and was immediately smitten with their black faces, ears and feet, shaggy fringes and white fluffy fleece.

They joined forces with friend and business partner Christine Reed from the Wairarapa and imported the valuable animals as embryos from top, prize-winning flocks in Scotland and the UK.  

Ms Reed was in charge of the selection of the genetics and interpretation of the importation rules.

Today they are the owners of a flock, which combined with Ms Reed's, will number around 50 Valais once lambing is complete. 

New Zealand is currently home to an estimated 100 purebred Valais Blacknose sheep and Sally says they're in hot demand, but notes "They're an expensive hobby  some people sink their money into jet boats; whereas we're investing in sheep." 

To assist enthusiasts into this breed as a more affordable option they have also cross- bred Valais rams with English Leicester ewes to enable people to start a breeding up program.

Lambs from these will also be at the show.

The Valais Blacknose breed is native to Switzerland, where they traditionally spend their summer months frolicking in the Swiss Alps.

Their popularity has skyrocketed around the world, with Britain's Valais Blacknose Sheep Society proclaiming them the fastest growing sheep breed in the UK.