Meet Our Sheep: Pocket
Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Pocket is one of our first pair of Icelandic sheep. He and Madame came to us from a breeder outside of Portland, Oregon. Because his horns were not full horns (technically called "scurs"), and the owner was only interested in horned rams, he would need to be removed from her breeding program. One of his horns was also growing toward his eye, so we needed to trim that before it became a medical issue. After the trimming, it corrected course and has continued curling outward as it should.
He and Madame bred that first year and produced Sophie. She was a spunky black lamb with had a lot of Pocket's personality, and probably his leadersheep tendencies as well. However, we lost her as a yearling due to RoundUp runoff from a neighbor's property.
Pocket is definitely the flock boss, which is easy for him, being the largest of all of them. In his younger days, he was actually quite a bully, shoving other sheep into electric fences to test them or claiming all of the grain for himself. He did try it with us a few times, but thanks to the method described in a fantastic article from a fellow shepherd ("Tough Love for Rams"), he came around after a few disciplinary sessions. (I may eventually cover what happens with sheep who do not learn to respect human caretakers and must go to freezer camp. This can be serious, and it is not worth keeping a dangerous animal in a space where they will be interacting with humans regularly.)
Once he was wethered, he had already been so well-behaved with humans on his home turf that there was no difference in personality. We did discover that if we took him to shows, he would spend most of his time protecting whoever was in the pen with him, so anyone who came to pet would potentially find their hand between his head and the pen wall. Rather than risk injury, we left him home and brought the other sheep instead.
He rests on his laurels now that he is a comfortable age of 9 and is more likely to share food with the flock. Except banana peels. No one touches his banana peels.
With Icelandics (as well as some other primitive breeds), there is the concept of "Leadersheep." These are a special sub-breed, sometimes with physical differences, but quite often with very definite personality differences.
Pocket does not have the longer legs and shorter, rougher wool often associated with Icelandic leadersheep. However, he has logic. We stopped using electric fences to contain the sheep partly because of his continued testing of them. (The other reason was when we brought Lavender home. But I'll cover that in her profile.)
At our previous home, the water spigot was in their area, and we had to lock it with a carabiner after he learned how to turn it on with his horns. He would drag their empty water bucket over and turn the water on.
We had attempted to save a sapling in their area that was doing well. One day, when bored, he started using his horn to walk the sapling down and eat all the leaves at the top.
He is watchful of anything unusual in their pasture and will test dogs who test him. He ignores our Icelandic Sheepdog, Stig. They seem to have reached an understanding to leave each other alone. One of our friends brings her small Xoloitzcuintle, Spencer, and Pocket seems to know that he doesn't need to be tested, or that he's just too fast to worry about. However, another friend who farms sits for us when we're away at shows uses working Border Collies, and they have been told to show him who's the boss. He obeys—usually—but grudgingly.
Pocket's wool is phenomenal. When entered for judging, his fleece has always been in the ribbons. The outer coat, or tog, is softer than most Icelandic fleece, and the inner coat, or thel, is even softer than usual. When processing, I haven't bothered separating them, because they are just so lovely and the combination of fiber lengths produces a lovely halo effect in the finished yarn.