Reviews of "The World of Coloured Sheep"

"The World of Coloured Sheep"
edited by Roger Lundie and Elspeth Wilkinson

Ordering Information

Damara sheep of southern Africa

The World Congress on Coloured Sheep meets once every five years. One benefit of attending is a copy of the Congress Proceedings. While each congress book is filled with valuable information, the latest, for the Sixth Congress, is the most beautifully produced and includes much more than the usual expanded versions of Congress talks. Sheep and wool experts from around the world contributed articles and photos for this comprehensive treatment. In eleven sections, The World of Coloured Sheep covers everything from a historical overview of sheep breeds to fiber: handcraft wools; breeding; color genetics; managing, promoting, and marketing colored sheep and wool; hair sheep; and handcrafts using wool. The longest section, "Coloured Sheep Breeds Used for Producing Handcraft Wools," features breed origin, characteristics, distribution, and handcraft uses of thirty-six different colored sheep breeds, with a color photo of each breed. You'll even find old drawings of sheep scattered through the book for a delightful history of the animals' appearance over time.

The most valuable aspect of the book is the way it brings together the multiple facets of the colored sheep industry. Handspinners will learn about the difficult decisions sheep breeders have to make when they're selecting, breeding, and caring for sheep in order to produce high-quality wools. Sheep breeders can study pure vs cross breeding, genetic diversity, the genetics of color, artificial reproduction, disease control, and many styles of managing and marketing sheep and wool. Every fiber enthusiast will benefit from reading how to choose and use colored fleeces.

This is not a book to read quickly - even just studying the many images takes some time. The World of Coloured Sheep is a well-written treasure trove of information that's more than worth every penny of the price.

Carol Huebscher Rhoades, Spin Off, Summer 2005. Reprinted with permisson from Interweave Press.

What a gem of a book! Roger Lundie and Elspeth Wilkinson, the editors of The World of Coloured Sheep, certainly accomplished their goal of "a manual for all those interested in breeding coloured sheep for handcraft use." The World of Coloured Sheep is more than just the proceedings book of the Sixth World Congress on Coloured Sheep. My enthusiasm for it has not diminished since first reading it while at the Congress. There is something in this book for all of you: whether you are starting out in colored sheep or have been raising them for decades. The World of Coloured Sheep has eleven main headings/chapters. The book is well-organized and the papers are written in a style that is easy to understand. The technical papers are clear and concise although, as usual, I have to reread the articles on genetics. For the most part, each section is organized from the technical to the practical or the general to the specific.

"Sheep Breeds - an Historical Look," chapter 1, sets the stage for the rest of the book. The historical information about sheep breeds covers the origins and development of the Merino and breeds developed from the Merino; the origins of the primitive coloured sheep of Britain; an historical overview of short-tail breeds of Northern Europe; the development of some mountain and longwool sheep of Britain; and sheep breeds developed in New Zealand.

Logically, chapter 2 discusses wool fiber and fleece. It starts with several papers on the technical aspects of wool, such as characteristics, pigment and yearly wool growth and continues onto papers about the practical aspects of showing fleeces, judging faults, and skirting fleeces. In the initial planning of The World of Coloured Sheep the third chapter on sheep breeds was gathered first and the editors built the rest of the book around this chapter. Each of 36 breeds is described in one page or less with one or more colored photographs. It gives the reader a wonderful view of how many colored breeds of sheep there are in the world. Although I cannot say I have a favorite chapter, I always come back to this section for the beautiful photographs and to glean more of the abundant information found in it. A separate chapter covers the hair sheep and the Karakul, discussing these breeds in the southern countries of Africa.

With the basics taken care of - history, fiber, and breeds - the reader moves on to topics of purebreeding and crossbreeding. In addition to two papers on why one should pursue purebreeding or crossbreeding, this section has papers on registering colored sheep in New Zealand, North America, Australia, and Britain and personal experiences of raising purebred sheep or crossbred sheep.

"The World of Coloured Sheep" moves boldly into the genetics of color. We are not just talking 'big A, little a.' Genetics of color, selection, artificial insemination, scrapie genetics, and maintenance of a wide genetic base are covered thoroughly and clearly. After twice reading Roger Lundie's paper "The Genetics of Colour in Sheep - Some Basics," I think I've finally 'got it.' Many times I've tried to read articles on color genetics and given up in frustration. Be sure to look at the photographs with this paper; Roger's sense of humor shines through. The other paper in this part I found especially interesting was Phil Sponenberg's paper "Genetic Management of Small Closed Population - Maintaining a Broad Genetic Base and Managing Inbreeding." He outlines a plan to maintain breed vitality in a small closed flock.

"Managing Coloured Sheep to Produce the Perfect Fleece," chapter 6, arrives at the reason I raise colored sheep - the fleece. The general aspects of feed and management lead into the specifics of raising colored sheep throughout the world. We are the same and we are different. We all strive to raise healthy sheep with clean, beautiful fleeces. Methods differ a little and a lot. Some sheep graze in fenced pastures, some sheep live on the beaches eating seaweed, and some sheep are taken out to feed on communal grazing areas. Additionally, there are papers on sheepskins, getting started in colored sheep, and the foot and mouth outbreak in Britain, a sad one indeed.

"Promoting the Coloured Flock" and "Marketing the Coloured Fleece and Products" comprise the next two chapters. These parts discuss showing sheep and fleeces as a promotional tool and the ins and outs of marketing fleeces and their products, including marketing on the Internet. I had to smile when I read Stuart Albrey's paper "Selling Fleeces." Many of his experiences reflected mine when I first launched into colored sheep: what to do with all these fleeces and the joy of selling my first one. There was also lots to learn about how he has developed his market.

The papers in the two handcraft chapters bring the book to the grand finale. The first handcraft part details the types of fleeces, different yarns to spin, and many ways to create woolen treasures, even some techniques I hadn't heard of - scrumbling - a type of crocheting and kiwicraft - rolling fleece on one's knee to make yarn. In the second handcraft part the authors share their knowledge of several traditional handcrafts. The cultures are in some ways similar and in other ways worlds apart: Navajo-Churro wool, Chiapas sheep and Tzotzil women, the handcrafts of Mongolia, and the handcrafts of the Shetland Islands. The paper on ancient European dyes made me realize how spoiled I am to have cochineal and indigo, unheard of until trade expanded out of Europe, and to have synthetic dyes.

Not only does "The World of Coloured Sheep" have a wealth of information and is interesting to read, it also qualifies as a coffee table book. From front to back and inside out, "The World of Coloured Sheep" is gorgeous. I will read it, reread it, and just plain look at the pictures. Get this book; it's a keeper!

Rolly Thompson, Black Sheep Newsletter, Winter 2005.

Roger Lundie and Elspeth Wilkinson edited the Congress Proceedings and we all received a copy of this superb, large format publication on arrival... This volume includes articles by many authors in addition to the speakers at the Congress and is truly a treasure trove of information. One section comprises one page, pithy descriptions with excellent photographs of 36 coloured sheep breeds. These include all the British primitive breeds, of course, but also many improved breeds. Nearly all improved white breeds of sheep include individuals which carry an allele other than white at the Agouti locus; thus there are coloured Cotswolds, Corriedales, Leicesters, Lincolns, Merinos, North Country Cheviots, etc, etc. Most of these we saw during the Congress and they are well described and illustrated in the Congress Proceedings. The Editors consulted widely during the two years it took to assemble all the contributions and it is gratifying to see all our labours so well presented. This will be a hard act to follow!

Diane and David Kinsman, Coloured Sheep News No 74, Winter 2004/05.

Part of the perks of being a delegate was that we were given a book called quot;The World of Coloured Sheep.quot; This book was compiled by Elspeth Wilkinson and Roger Lundie from articles supplied to them by people throughout the world. This book is fantastic in the range and quality of its content and the quality of its production. Once again thanks go to the many of you who contributed both in the breed section and in other parts of the book. Some members ordered it in advance and a number of them have phoned me to say what an excellent publication it is.

Pat Regardsoe, Coloured Sheep News No 74, Winter 2004/05.

coloured flock against a mountain backdrop Spring time twin lambs fleeces displayed at the 2004 World Congress
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