Gotland

Gotland sheep originate from the Viking days, but have been carefully refined in Sweden since the early 1900's.  An embryo was imported to Australia in 2010 and a Gotland flock has been nurtured through careful genetics selection and artificial insemination. The flock in Australia is developed to produce not only the finest fibre, but also a focus on colours for which the breed is well known.

Gotland provide the "triple" purpose of meat, pelt and fibre.  The lambs are quick growing and this helps ensure a good financial stream for not only fibre, but also meat production to help ensure the breed's financial longevity in Australia.

History

 Gotland ewe in 2013

Gotland ewe in 2013

The Gotland breed is believed to have been established on the Swedish island of Gotland by the Vikings who crossed the native Swedish Gute sheep with Karakul and Romanov sheep brought back from expeditions deep into Russia. The Vikings used these sheep to support their ship crew with meat and skins along their travel route. The breed may have contributed therefore to other northern short tailed breeds such as Finn, Shetland and Icelandic

Intensive and selective breeding in Sweden since the 1920’s produced the modern Gotland, famous for its soft and curly pelts. While the pelts were the most notable product from Gotland sheep, Gotlands are a true multipurpose breed providing fleece, pelts and meat.

The sheep were imported by Cheryl Crosbie to Australia.  The flock was carefully managed for fibre quality, colour as well as meat production for the longer term. 

Gotland sheep are fine-boned and of medium size. Gotlands are polled and have no wool on their black heads and legs. There may be white markings on the top of the head or around the nose and mouth. They have alert medium sized ears that stand outwards with a small neat muzzle, an even jaw and even teeth. Their slender neck and shoulders set smoothly into a level back with good depth and reasonable breadth of body. The slender legs are well spaced and upright. The tail is short with a hair covered tip. 

Fleece and Fibre

The fleece is fine, long, lustrous and dense and can be all shades of grey from silver to charcoal grey and dark enough to be almost black. Their fleece has a clearly defined even curl and staple that is soft to the touch. The fleece is typically 29 to 34 micrometres in diameter. Lambs wool can be in the low to mid 20's micrometre range. 

Gotland fleece is fine, lustrous, soft handle with clearly defined curl (spurl) from 10mm to 15mm. Perfect for spinners, knitters, textile artists, weavers and felters. Benefiting from one farm's investment in artificial insemination to carefully build a small flock since 2010, Australia is lucky to have the full range of greys, for which Gotland are renowned, along with white, black and a lovely honey shade.

 The staple length is long, around xxmm (10-12 inches).  The fibre range is generally 29-34 microns with lamb's wool registering in the low to mid 20's range.

Fibre Uses

The Gotland fibre is soft and can be used for near and next to near skin items.  It is ideal for knitting, spinning and weaving items by hand as it is enjoyable to work with the fibres.  The colour variations of the breed make for plenty of choice.

 Gotland fibres on the spinning wheel.

Gotland fibres on the spinning wheel.

 A few hanks of Gotland yarn

A few hanks of Gotland yarn

Fibre Preparation

The fibre is of a length that allows one to process the staples in nearly any manner.

For the hand spinner, the fibres can be combed, hand or drum carded, or each staple can even be simply hand teased and introduced to the wheel orifice.

Worsted or woollen produces a lovely soft yarn.

Meat

The Gotland breed produces good meat.  The Gotland meat is mild, good flavoured with a close grain. Though there is a plan by a breeder to produce quality Gotland meat in Australia, this may take some time as the breed numbers are still small having only been introduced in 2010.

Pelts

Gotland pelts are well known for their quality and are a highly sought breed for sheepskin. The pelts are strong, durable and have a high lustre in the traditional array of rich grey shades.

In Australia the goal is to build the pelt market when the herd numbers are sufficient.

Where to Find Fibre or Products to Support this Breed

Gotland Sheep and Fibre Australia

Other Links

Gallery  - A series of photos specific to this breed