Tuesday, 18 April 2017

O is for Orkney Islands adapted breeds and wildlife …



Orkney consists of 70 islands and skerries (tiny rocky outlets), many uninhabited, separated by 10 miles of tidal races from mainland Scotland … which has historical connections stretching back 6,000 years.


Orkney Islands off the north coast of
Scotland; the Shetlands are the furthest
group shown here



The seas play an essential role in animal life on the island … so much so – that North Ronaldsay sheep exist on a diet of kelp (seaweed) for most of the year.



North Ronaldsay is the northernmost of the inhabited islands being mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga.






North Ronaldsay sheep on the seashore
There is plenty of other wildlife ... but these native sheep are unique to this Orkney island.  They have evolved to graze as the tide reveals the shore, ruminating at high water … their fresh water is limited to the few freshwater lakes and ponds along the seashore.


North Ronaldsay sheep enjoying the kelp


Their wool is spun on the Scottish mainland … but the island now has its own small woollen mill.  Their diet gives the meat a distinctive flavour …




Orkney Voles


The Orkney Voles were introduced to the archipelago in Neolithic times … over 6,000 years ago … they are spread over the islands …




Orkney Cattle

Orkney Cattle tend to be of a mixed type of various breeds – but due to the rich pastures are generous with their milk supplies and beef … supplying the islands, as well as being in demand by other distributors.




That is O for Opportune Voles, Orcadian Cattle Oak Smoked Beef and Kelp fed Orkney Sheep  … from Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …



Counties with the letter O … 
(note some Counties have been retired!, or amended over historical local government … but some I’ve included)
England:  Oxfordshire
Northern Ireland: None
Scotland:  Orkney
Wales:  None


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

47 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

I imagine a diet of kelp WOULD give the meat a distinctive taste. An extraORDINARILY facinating fact. Thank you.

Sara C. Snider said...

Seashore sheep! Would love to see that. :)

A to Z 2017: Magical and Medicinal Herbs

Bob Scotney said...

That kelp has a lot of uses. I see you have said 'Opportune Voles in the tags - where does that name come from?

Shirley Corder said...

I enjoy your look at life around a specific letter. Have a great week. O is for Ongoing Opportunites as you Build a Better Blog ~ #atozchallenge

helen tilston said...

Hello Hillary, I have learned something new, yet again, from reading your post. I was unaware of sheep eating kelp. I can imagine the flavour of their meat must be distinctive.
I would love to visit this remove region and will one day
Hope you had a beautiful Easter

Helen xx

Donna Smith said...

Wow! Didn't know sheep were so adaptable to the sea!
Sheep smell sea kelp by the seashore... try that one 5 times fast...LOL!

Donna Smith
Mainely Write
OXPOWER

Susan Scott said...

Those sheep knew a thing or two re kelp - my mother used to collect kelp from the various shores here in SA and we know that it is now used in preparations for health, and as a beauty cream. Thank you for placing the Orkney Isles so well Hilary, and the Shetlands.. I'm thinking now of the Shetland ponies?

bazza said...

It's hard to say what my wife does for a living.....she sells shaggy sheep on the seashore. Boom boom!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s singular Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

A Heron's View said...

The Orkney's and Shetland have an interesting history having been owned by the Scandinavians and the Orkneys were a wedding gift
to a Scottish Queen see http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/history6.htm

Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar said...

I had no idea that sheep could actually like kelp. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Sheep on the seashore eating kelp - that must be a sight to see! Happy A-to-Z-ing.

Michelle Wallace said...

Orkney Voles? Are they mice?
Kelp-eating sheep? Interesting. Imagine how delicious that meat is...

Vinodini Iyer said...

I've never heard of sea sheep. Another new piece of info for me. You're increasing my general knowledge. :)

Jemima Pett said...

Always wanted to get to the Orkneys, Shetlands and Isles of Scilly. One of these days.....

Jemima on Ornithology

Anabel Marsh said...

I just love be Orkney, such a beautiful place.

Sophie Duncan said...

The voles look so cute - I love small mammals. I would like to visit Orkney.
Sophie
Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - Dragon Diaries

Deborah Weber said...

Kelp-eating sheep - how fascinating. The Orkney Islands sound like a curious and rugged place to visit, and I imagine quite beautiful.

Nick Wilford said...

I never really associate sheep with the seaside at all, so this was news to me. I guess that kelp gives them a lot of nutrients! I'd love to get up to the Orkneys one day and take in all that dramatic scenery.

FinnBadger said...

That is fascinating that the sheep eat kelp. I can only imagine having to chomp on a pile of the rubbery stuff. My post is sea-related today as well :)

Phillip | O is for an Octopus named Hank He’s also Orange!

Laurel Garver said...

Those little voles are so adorable--but probably pests to the locals!

http://laurelgarver.blogspot.com/2017/04/o-optimism.html

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Voles are cute until they get into your garage and start making a mess of everything. I have to deal with that every spring and autumn (about that time now).

The Orkney Islands really are on the backside of nowhere, aren't they? ;-)

O - The October Crisis

Jacqui said...

I've enjoyed every one of Ann Cleaves Shetland mysteries. I didn't know those islands were part of Orkney. Thanks for all this background.

Leslie Moon said...

That's amazing how nature adapts. Those sheep are probably very healthy. Ive always wondered about the Orkney isles now I'd like to wander about them.

Happy Tuesday Hillary.
A Piece of Uganda

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Those sheep are beautiful. I don't know about the taste of the kelp-influenced meat! I have always wanted to go to the Scottish Isle of Skye and use it in two of my novels just to be there in my mind!

M. Denise C. said...

I had heard of these islands, Hilary, but was not sure where they were. And there's 70 of them! Thanks for the education. :-) Cheers,
D

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

The evolution of remote islands is always an interesting topic to read about. I had never heard of the Orkney islands or their many occupants. A fun lesson to begin my day, Hilary.

Patsy said...

I've seen the Orkneys in the distance and a couple of Ronaldsay sheep close up. Hopefully I'll eventually get onto the island and see them eating seaweed.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I knew voles were rodents but I didn't know exactly what they looked like.

Claire Annette said...

I can't believe how many rare breeds you are sharing. I'm learning something new everyday.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

So many unique animals. I just never thought of sheep grazing by the ocean.

Nilanjana Bose said...

Beach bum sheep, wow! Would the meat be healthier because of the kelp I wonder? bet it's flavoursome, but it's rare that something that tastes good is also good for one....sigh

Nilanjana.
Madly-in-Verse

Out on the prairie said...

An enjoyable selection to learn about today.i never heard of a grazer eating kelp.

bookworm said...

Not an ordinary sheep at all. I am not extremely knowledgeable of sheep, but I don't think I've ever heard of one that eats kelp. Trying to imagine the taste - I can't. And I would love some Orcadian Cattle Oak Smoked Beef. The Unknown Journey Ahead agingonthespectrum.blogspot.com

Kristin said...

I would like to taste some of the kelp flavored lamb.

Finding Eliza

Birgit said...

Thanks for visiting me. I am not one for lamb but I like the colour of this sheep. Interesting how some animals come to the islands

Liz A. said...

Oooh, I wonder about the wool. Does it make soft yarn?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Very cool that those sheep learned to live on Kelp alone.

Emily Bloomquist said...

Sheep that eat kelp - wow, who knew? (not I) How wonderful that they adapted.

Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Olon Orphanage

SENCO Cat Herder said...

Yet another reason to get to the Orkney Isles one day soon - I certainly didn't realise these sheep eat kelp so much!
http://pempispalace.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/o-is-for-options.html

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ EC – it’s interesting to think about … and definitely worth knowing how evolution has helped them …

@Sara – I know – well they would welcome a visit …

@ Bob – yes kelp has more uses than feeding up the sheep … and I’ve written about it before (link later on in the comments) … gardening and food spring to mind – let alone roast lamb fed kelp. Opportune Voles – was just an ‘O’ description I added to the vole!

@ Shirley – many thanks … I chose an interesting topic!

@ Helen – good to see you again … yes it’s difficult to imagine what kelp fed lamb would taste like … it is a beautiful part of the world …

@ Donna – I know life always introduces us to amazing developments – mainly natural ones too. Thank you for the new tongue twister! … it’s a good one …
Thank you for the visit – I’ll be over ‘shortly’!

@ Susan – well it’s how they are able to live or have adapted to live – the kelp must be more nutritious than the rough pasture on the islands. We collected sea-weed too for my Cornish grandparents’ garden … I had to place the Orkneys – which helps me too …

I have written about kelp before in “M is for Mother of the Sea” under my cookery A-Z series …
http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/m-is-for-mother-of-sea.html - about Kathleen Drew-Baker’s work …

Shetland ponies aren’t on the endangered list … in fact there’s quite careful breeding to keep the breed pure …

@ Bazza – does your poor wife .. go down to the tidal reaches of the sea shore and sell shaggy sheep .. thanks a fun note …

@ Mel – yes the Scottish islands all have an interesting history – I was concentrating on my topic of Rare Breeds … but I’m glad to have the link ..

@ Cynthia – I guess the sheep adapted over time and preferred it when it’s on the sea shore, rather than the rough grasses of the island.

@ Ronel – good to see you … yes I think probably getting a sighting would be fascinating …

@ Michelle – the vole is a different mammal to the mouse species – they look slightly similar don’t they …

I think the sheep’s wool is used … and perhaps they eat the meat occasionally … I’m not sure about the husbandry of the ‘flock’ …

@ Vinodini – that’s good … I’m glad people can learn when they visit …

@ Jemima – one of these days I’m sure that visit will occur … it does look an amazing area to spend some time …

@ Anabel – it certainly looks a stunning place and you’re slightly nearer to the islands than many of us are – I’d love to visit one day …

@ Sophie – the vole has an interesting history … I though am not so fond of small mammals! But I’d join you on a visit to the Orkneys …

@ Deborah – I think the Orkneys would be the way you’d describe them … rugged and fascinating. I knew the kelp eating sheep would amuse!

@ Nick – I don’t think any of us do – but said sheep obviously thrive happily and as you say the kelp gives them lots of nutrients – it’d be great to be able to visit the Orkneys sometime wouldn’t it …

@ Phillip – yes but if you have an ability to ‘chew the cud’ – then swallow and ruminate on the food … they’re happy! I did see Hank I think …

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Laurel – there wasn’t any mention of the vole being a pest and they’ve been on the island for a long time … there’d be no reason for them to become a pest – they’re happy co-existing …

@ CD – are they not mice in your garage … voles live on grass and habit that sort of agricultural area …

Well some people love the backside of nowhere – but that’s the way the tectonic plate movement have left part of the world – in this case Scottish islands …

@ Jacqui – there are just lots of islands or archipelagos in Scotland … the Shetlands are separate to the Orkneys – but all Scottish islands or groups … see my I for islands links below from another A-Z on coasts …

@ Leslie – it is amazing how nature adapts isn’t it – and yes it’d be interesting to see the sheep in situ and I’m sure they’re very healthy …

@ Roland – it’s good you use Skye in your novels … as you say if it’s a wish … to keep it near and dear … one day. I’d be interested to try the kelp sheep meat … sometime.

@ Denise – well I’m glad I enlightened you on the whereabouts of the Orkneys … lots of islands here … again I wrote about them in my I for Islands post on Coasts … in the 2014 A-Z here:
http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/i-is-for-islands-inside-rock-pool-inlet.html

@ Gail – if you check out the I is for Islands post above which I wrote in 2014 – it covers most of the islands of the UK … I didn’t go into the evolution of them though, or the wildlife found there …

@ Patsy - I’ve never been that close to seeing the Orkneys – it’s rough water to cross I gather … glad you’ve seen a Ronaldsay sheep at close quarters … and I’m sure you’ll get over to the island one day …

@ Alex – voles aren’t nasty rodents (and don’t over breed) … these in fact came over from Belgium (they think) via the land bridge, when it still connected the UK to Europe …

@ Claire – I struggled to make the posts interesting – I didn’t want to concentrate on one animal type … so you are being shown a few! Glad you’re enjoying the posts …

@ Diane – actually quite a few animals wander along our remoter beaches or coastlines – but I don’t think I realised that they might exist that way as these do …

@ Nila – I’m not sure if the sheep are bred for meat – I think they are left to their own devices … the wool is used for tourist goodies … and I’m sure at times a sheep would be slaughtered … I bet it’s good for us, and I bet it’s flavoursome …

@ Steve – that’s good – I aim to please …

@ Bookworm – I’m sure the kelp fed lamb would be rather tasty – not sure if they are bred to be eaten. I agree the Orcadian Cattle Oak Smoked Beef would be good to try …

@ Kristin – I’m sure the Orkneys would love to sell you some of the kelp flavoured lamb …

@ Birgit – it is interesting how animals get to various islands and then settle in … the voles they think came from Belgium when the land bridge was still in existence …

@ Liz – I’m sorry I don’t know about the wool – I would think it would make a very good insulator …

@ Susan – it’s interesting how animals adapt isn’t it …

@ Emily – yes … it’s a fascinating thought to see the animals feeding on the kelp …

@ Senco – well I hope you can get up to the Orkneys sometime soon …

Thanks everyone so much for your visits – good to see you all … cheers Hilary

Diane S said...

I only got has far as Lands End so this was of interest to me seeing a bit further North. I love the voles they are so cute. Diane

Chicky Kadambari said...

Ornkey Islands look like a beautiful place. And I see a lot of green for the cattle. Out here, in India, cows are left on the roads, to be fed by random passers-by. Naturally, they get hit by vehicles at times.

Btw, I just published my O post @ A to Z of Happiness: Optimism.
Do visit it.
Happy AtoZing!

Pamela Wright said...

Hi Hilary, so funny that we both did Orkney. I love the North Ronaldsay sheep, they're so cute to look at and amazing how they live off of seaweed.

Highlands Days of Fun

Deniz Bevan said...

I'd love to visit these islands someday. And all the Scottish islands. The Orkney Library is fun to follow on Twitter!

Sue said...

Fascinating. I like reading about parts of the planet that are remote, and the uniqueness of the area.

Birgit said...

I think those voles are cute...just saying. These islands are very remote so I best the animals have changed to adapt