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Baa baa black sheep are a hit

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 March 2010

THEY might be a whole family of black sheep, but some of the smallest lambs in the world are proving hugely popular after their arrival at a Suffolk farm.

THEY might be a whole family of black sheep, but some of the smallest lambs in the world are proving hugely popular after their arrival at a Suffolk farm.

Exceptionally rare and almost unheard of in the UK, the small flock of tiny Ouessant sheep – thought to be the smallest breed in the world – are a suitable addition to Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, in Baylham, near Needham Market.

There are only about 2,000 of the breed in the world and, with fully-grown Ouessants measuring just 50cm tall and weighing only 22kg, the lambs, rams and ewes on show are certainly in short supply.

Richard and Ann Storer, who own and run Baylham House Farm, first became aware of the breed on a trip to Cumbria.

"That was the first time we came across Ouessants – and we fell in love with them. We decided it would be great to have some on the farm," said Mr Storer.

Despite the rarity of the sheep, Mr and Mrs Storer remarkably found a flock almost on their doorstep – or, at least, across Suffolk in Bawdsey, near Woodbridge.

But the flock's elderly owner, Dorothy Blunn, decided she could not bear to part with her prized pets, which she cared for in a paddock.

The couple kept in touch with Miss Blunn and each conversation between the parties ended with a plea that, if she ever thought about selling the sheep, the flock would receive a warm welcome at Baylham House.

Last year, they had a telephone call from Thelma Shimmen, from Hollesley, near Woodbridge, who looked after Miss Blunn's flock.

She said Miss Blunn had died and the sheep needed to find some grazing as they could no longer stay in the grounds of her cottage.

But Ms Shimmen could not bear to sell the sheep and it was only after a visit to Baylham House that an agreement was reached. The animals would be housed as part of the farm's sheep collection, but remain the property of Ms Shimmen, who has round-the-clock access.

The black – and one brown – Ouessant sheep have joined six other rare sheep breeds at Baylham House.

"They are genuinely friendly and very playful. It is a great acquisition for us as they are extremely unusual – there almost definitely won't be another flock in East Anglia," said Mr Storer.

OUESSANT FACTS

N The breed, which is also known as ushant, ouessantin and Breton Dwarf, originates from the tiny island of Ouessant, situated in the Atlantic Ocean a dozen miles off the coast of France.

N They are most often found in Belgium, France and Holland.

N They are a carpet wool breed.

N Most animals are black in colour with a few white individuals also occurring.

N It is a drawf breed with the males being horned and the females polled (naturally hornless).

Weblink: www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/ushant/

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