The Shetland Sheep Society is made up of nearly 500 members distributed widely around the UK as well as some overseas. It is governed by Constitution and run by an elected fourteen person Committee, a network of regional representatives and many other committed volunteers who generously give their time in support of the breed.
Members are actively encouraged to get involved in the running of the society, especially on a local basis with regional workshops, ram gatherings, social events, manning stands at wool shows and more. The Annual General Meeting also allows members to have their say on a more formal basis and put forward resolutions that may help the society and the breed in the future.
We are a friendly society with many experienced breeders willing to give new shepherds a helping hand and gentle advice.
History of the Society
During the early part of the twentieth century the wool industry on Shetland was a prospering part of the economy of the Islands. However, the practice of crossing the native sheep with more modern introductions such as Cheviot had led to a marked deterioration in the wool clip for Shetland as a whole. This prompted a group of Shetlanders to fear that if the quality of the wool deteriorated so as to be no better than that obtainable elsewhere in the world their hosiery industry would be at serious risk. As a result the Shetland Flock Book Society was established in 1927 with Dr. J.C. Bowie, then residing at Bixter, as its President.
From then on there was an improvement in the quality of the sheep and the wool. A Breed Description was drawn up and is still in use. The Shetland Flock Book Trust administers the sheep's welfare for island residents to this day.
Since the 1970's, Breeders in the UK adhering to the Shetland Flock Book Society Standard and tradition have bred to maintain a fine-woolled single coated phenotype that probably reflects the best that Shetland had to offer.
In 1977 The Rare Breed Survival Trust classified Shetland Sheep as Category 3 (Endangered). However, by 1985, the popularity of the breed on the mainland, particularly with smallholders interested in the range of colours and the fineness of the wool, was such that they were re classified as Category 5 (Above Numerical Guidelines). In the 1990s the classification of the breed was revised to a Minority Breed. In 2002 Shetland sheep were removed from the RBST list of supported breeds.
In 1985 the Shetland Sheep Breeders Group was formed to help breeders outside the Shetland Islands to maintain flocks conforming to the 1927 Breed Standard. The Group then became responsible for registering Shetland sheep on the mainland. The SSBG was initially a breeders group within the RBST, but since 1991 it has become a fully independent body. In October 2002 the Shetland Sheep Breeders Group changed its name to the Shetland Sheep Society.