Bjørnefabrikken

Old Norwegian sheep

 

The Old Norwegian sheep, also called ‘austevoldssau’, ‘utegangersau’, ‘steinaldersau’, ‘ursau’ and wild sheep is a Norwegian sheep breed which has been built up again from the remnants of the original national stock which existed in Norway and in parts of Europe . The race is one of the short tailed sheep breeds and is relatively small.

The Old Norwegian sheep is a descendant of sheep which have existed here for more than 3,000 years. The ram weighs around 43 kg on average, while the ewes ideally weigh around 32 kg.

Villsau, svart/hvitOld Norwegian sheep are nimble and quick compared with other sheep and can remain outside all year round. The wool is fine and varies in colour from almost white through grey and brown shades and patterns to almost black. Wool that is left to grow falls off in early July. It is normally not collected and rarely used for knitting or weaving as it is a coarse wool.

Ewes give birth to one or two lambs at a time, depending on the availability of food in the period leading up to covering and in the course of the winter. There can be a big difference between the sizes of lambs where food availability in winter is poor, where a ewe is carrying two lambs. The ewe usually rejects the smallest lamb. Lambs weigh at birth around 3 kg. Ewes have a strong maternal instinct and rest for up to 3 days to get to know their lambs and to allow them to gain strength and become steadier on their feet. The ewe then rejoins the flock, which also protects her lambs.

All rams and around 10% of ewes develop horns. The ewes develop relatively small, goat-like horns, while the rams develop powerful, mouflon like horns. The horn develops in the course of the first year and after this grows most in the summer.

Behavior

Old Norwegian sheep have a unique flight behaviour compared with other sheep. Flocks that are fleeing predators spread out in a fan shape pattern. The strongest animals will lead the flight and draw the predator away, so that the weakest manage to take refuge. This sheep is very quick and therefore is very rarely caught by predators. The speed of this sheep also means that they are not easy to control using a sheep dog, as it uses the same flight tactic when approached by the sheep dog. Dogs therefore only return with a few animals. The sheep will also enter water and swim away to avoid being captured.

(text taken from Wikipedia)