I love thinking about Shetland colour and pattern genetics. The more I read, ponder, and observe, the more I am willing to accept that we just don't have words for the endless variations in colour shades, other than "Wow, isn't that gorgeous!" There are eleven named main colours of Shetland fleece, but in fact those colours are just points on a continuous wheel of colour. I have a project in mind to take samples of all our fleeces and felt them into a sampler showing some of the range in our flock. Oh right, first I have to get the rest of last year's fleeces actually washed.
Below are three of the girls who we hope are growing lambs right now. You may be surprised to hear that all three are genetically black sheep.
Each of these ewes is black based, with a different pattern or modification affecting the fleece colour. Shirley, on the left, shows the grey pattern. Her fleece is a mix of black and white fibres appearing light grey. Kir, at the back, is registered as shaela in colour. Shaela, in my understanding, is a solid dark grey, probably caused by a modifier gene. Because Kir also carries the recessive gene for brown her actual fleece colour is -- well, I just don't have a word for it yet -- kind of a delicious dark brownish grey. Bryn, on the right, is a grey katmoget, with typical dark underside and interesting facial markings. Her fleece is a mottled grey. We know she also carries the brown or moorit colour because her first lamb, when bred to our ram Nonsuch (Sunny) is our beautiful Daphne, a fawn katmoget. Happily, Daphne has a much more correct tail than her mother.
Let's just take a moment to admire Daphne's adorable lamb butt, and remember the green grass of summer. Ahh.
Her front end is pretty charming, too. This picture illustrates the katmoget facial pattern, but really I just want to look at lamb pictures.
Happily, Daphne has stayed this friendly and is always ready for a scratch and a fleece fondle.
The other two ewes have also been bred to Sunny before. Both Shirley and Kir produced twins in more or less the same colour/pattern as themselves. But what will they give us this year? The possibilities include black, grey, moorit, shaela, emsket, mioget, katmoget, and more. And there are two more ewes in the breeding group still to consider. Cairo and Beatrix add white, gulmoget, and spots to the mix! No wonder I love to think about this. The genetics are fascinating and each experiment is embodied in the sheer joy and wonder of lambs.
Erica and Emaleigh, Cairo's twins from last May. Now that's it, no more lamb pictures until spring. Happy new year from the whole flock.