Sheep Breed Study Closeups

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  • Jacob Sheep Fleece

    This past weekend I set out to wash the raw Jacob fleece that I bought recently from Kenleigh Acres Farm in Northwest Oregon. I had never spun Jacob wool before and was intrigued by some fleece I saw listed online by Shannon of Kenleigh acres. Most of the wool I find in my area is typical handspinning fare. I'm fascinated with "primitive" breeds like the Jacob that have horns and spots and look kind of wild. You might expect that the fleece would be not as fine as it is since it is an "unimproved" breed, but actually it is quite soft and easy to spin. I generally think natural selection is better for animals. We humans tend to mess with nature and introduce more problems than we solve.

    Here is the raw fleece in all its loveliness about to be washed:

     Raw Fleece - Jacob Sheep

    Raw Jacob Sheep's Wool Fleece

     Washed Jacob Fleece

    Washed Jacob Fleece

    I have to say, the fleece was well skirted and washed up really nice. I just loved the crimpy locks and color variations of this fiber.

    Sheep: "Queenie" The fleece was about 2 lbs. 7 oz. with a 4" staple length.  23.1 microns

    Queenie - Kenleigh Acres Jacob Sheep

    Queenie - Kenleigh Acres Jacob Sheep 

    Here is some info and history about the Jacob sheep that I swiped from Wikipedia:

    The Jacob sheep is a rare breed of small, piebald (colored with white spots), polycerate (multi-horned) sheep, long-tailed sheep. Jacobs may have from two to six horns, but most commonly have four. The most common color is black and white. Generally referred to as an unimproved or heirloom breed (one that has survived with little human selection), the Jacob is descended from an ancient Old World breed of sheep, although its exact origins remain unclear. Spotted polycerate sheep were documented in England by the mid–17th century, and were widespread a century later. Unlike most other old world breeds, the Jacobs of North America have not undergone extensive cross-breeding and selective breeding; their body habitus resembles that of a goat.


    Each Jacob has distinctive markings that enable the shepherd to identify specific sheep from a distance. Desirable color traits include an animal which is approximately 60% white, with the remaining 40% consisting of a random pattern of black or "lilac" (brownish-gray)[1] spots or patches.[16] The skin beneath the white fleece is pink, while skin beneath colored spots is darkly pigmented. Both rams and ewes exhibit black markings, some of which are breed specific and some of which are random.[16]

    Wool and Hides

    While other British and Northern European multi-horned sheep have a fine inner coat and a coarse, longer outer coat,[8] Jacobs have a medium grade fleece and no outer coat.[2][17] The grade of Jacob wool is of a spinning count (S number or Bradford count) of 46–54,[17] which corresponds to an average fiber diameter of about 32.7–27.9 micrometers, or Low 1/4 Blood–1/4 Blood on the American or Blood grading system.[19] Lambs of the more primitive lines are born with a coat of guard hair that is protective against rain and cold; this birth coat is shed at 3–6 months.[17]

    In general, the fleece is light, soft, springy and open, with little lanolin (grease). The fleece generally weighs 3 to 6 pounds (1.4 to 2.7 kg) and varies in crimp and fineness. Staple length is generally 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 13 cm) and may be up to 7 inches (18 cm).[17] In some sheep (particularly British Jacobs, which have denser fleeces), the black wool will grow longer or shorter than the white wool. This is called "quilted fleece" and is an undesirable trait.[20]

    Jacobs are shorn once a year, most often in the springtime. Some individual sheep may develop a natural "break," or marked thinning, of the fleece in springtime, which can lead to a natural shedding of the fleece, particularly around the neck and shoulders. The medium-fine grade wool has a high luster, and is highly sought after by handspinners. The colors may be separated or blended after shearing and before spinning to produce various shades of yarn from a single fleece, from nearly white to nearly black.[17]

    You can read more about different sheep breeds here as I continue my quest to spin them all.