Mystery of chocolate sheep

Chocolate Sheep
Chocolate Sheep

What are these unusual chocolate coloured sheep that grazed in winter for about three weeks close to the New Winchelsea Road in Rye? That was the question posed by a reader who took this photo of some of this charming woolly flock. At first it was suggested they might be Soays, a primitive breed from the Western Isles of Scotland. But I believe they are Badger Faced sheep belonging to the Wetland Trust (Stephen and Anne Rumsy from Winchelsea). Certainly a rare breed and probably a breed our butcher suggests should be extinct! The Rumseys farm a large area around Winchelsea, Icklesham and Rye marshes so these sheep probably disappear to a different part of the farm, hence they are only glimpsed at certain times of the year. They certainly wouldn’t see Europe (dead or alive) and would eventually end up in the farm shop at Winchelsea.

There appears to be a ram in the photo. Most rams would be well behaved, especially towards humans, but would fight with other rams just prior to being introduced to the ewes at mating (tupping) time. They will bang heads together very hard until one ram backs down and gives dominance to the victor.

Many of the sheep to be seen around Rye, like my own at Lamb Farm, East Guldeford, and in the area close to Camber Castle, are the native Romney Marsh breed. These are happy to stay outside for the entire year and graze the bleak windswept areas of the marsh. The sheep at the castle belong to Langrish Farmers. Frank Langrish was for several years chairman of the British Wool Board.

Simon Wright is a farmer at East Guldeford, near Rye. He breeds sheep and Sussex Red cattle.