My obsession with fleece and fibre is growing. Not only do I now have a basket of some new types of wool top to spin (new to me) to add to a mountain of Ryeland fleece that I already possess, it seems like a good idea to connect the fleece/fibre to the animal. In the week before Christmas and New Year Mr L and I were starting to get cabin fever, so we took an afternoon out to the Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre at Kington in Herefordshire. I did not grow up on a farm, unlike Mr L, so rare breed farms are part of my education these days, and luckily Mr L is happy to tow along.

I was just sorting out my photos and thought you might like a peek – to enjoy the softness, curliness and fluffiness.

‘Uh Hullo……yes, can I help?

Who to start with? Perhaps the smallest. The shy little animals above are Quessant sheep. They are the smallest sheep breed in the world and originate from a small French island (Quessant) off the coast of Brittany. They looked beautifully soft, but unlike the goats, which were inquisitive little creatures, these guys kept their distance and didn’t come up for a stroke and some fuss. The look like they would produce a yarn as soft of the Ryeland I’m now familiar with, but I’ve yet to try.  Diane AKA The Spinning Shepherd has written about these little ‘uns at Wovember and on her Sheep to Sweater Sunday series.

The Angora goats, Abigail, Anita and Costello were also thick with curly soft, springy fleece and weren’t averse to a little fuss.

Abigail and Anita Angora Goats
Angora goat at the Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre
Costello the Angora goat

They were just a little averse to staying still (hence the slightly blurred photos). Even more blurry was Costello….

Consulting my new book The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, it appears they are mohair goats, originating from Turkey. Quite how they were finding a cold, blustery day in Herefordshire, I don’t know, as they’re not known to be very hardy. I looked through the haze of Abigail (or Anita’s?) soft hair. As the book says, ‘they look like they just got out of the beauty parlour with a fresh perm’. Don’t they just. They just forgot to brush off the straw.

Alpaca at the Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre
Alpaca

How soft was the fleece of alpaca though? So soft. Who’s the softest – who wins? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a tie!

Hairy, not soft, are the Soay sheep but because they are an ancient breed, I’m curious to try Soay sometime.

I couldn’t leave this post without including some photos of the other winsome inhabitants of the farm – the Pygmy goats…….

Pygmy goat

And the impressive owls…..

Casper and Numpty the Milky Eagle Owl