söndag 23 juni 2013

Gute, a cat, some goats

On my trip to Sweden for the spinning fest I saw sheep I thought I'd never see: Gute! Gute sheep, once called Gotländskt utegångsfår, are the origin of Gotland sheep. They are strong, hardy sheep, mostly to be found on the small island Fårö in the Gotland archipelago, a thousand kilometers south from where I was. This is the only Swedish sheep breed where both ewes and rams are horned. If "Fårö" sounds familiar: this is the island where some of Ingmar Bergman's films were made. It means "Sheep isle". He was first going to film in Orkney, but after visiting Fårö he stayed there for the rest of his life.

There seems to be some confusion about the name "Gute" in the English speaking world, as it's also used for Gotland sheep, a thing that was new to me until I discussed Gute on a Ravelry forum and couldn't understand what the others were talking about (and they couldn't understand me either). Gutefår and Gotlandsfår are two different breeds. Those of you who have seen Gotlands will notice many things that are different in Gutes when you look at my photos below. The horns, the shedding, the short double coated fleece, all this distinguish Gute sheep from Gotland sheep.


I was excited! Sheep from way back in history, from Viking times, still very real and grazing in the field only 100 meters from the cottage where I and a few of the other spinners lived. It was a small flock, a family with a few ewes, a ram, and lambs. The lambs also had horns already, even if they were so young, about months I estimated.


The adults were shedding their old wool, while new had already grown from underneath. Shedding is not usual among modern sheep, in fact I don't think there are any modern sheep that are able to do that, they are all sheared. I didn't dare go in to the sheep to collect some wool, but if I had, I could have shown fleece with both soft undercoat, wool, and harsh overcoat, hair.

One of the ewes:


The ram:


For those of you who are on Ravelry and take part in Tour de Fleece: check the ravatars of Team Nordic Spinners! Many use a photo of this ram's head very nicely edited into personal ravatars by kristinnitsirk, the blogger who shows her awesome works here. Here's the original photo:


He's so beautiful! I fell in love with that calm, kind ram. One of the small ram lambs tried his horns on his father, who only went on ruminating and looking content with life in the green, sunny field.

I stayed for one night at the house of one of the spinners, and there I met an impressive Birma cat that was enjoying himself in the sun:


I saw the Angora goats that provided the mohair for our bouclé at the get-together:


There were angora rabbits also:


And hens and a cock:


I'm perfectly content now. I have been longing to see Fårö because of the sheep. I have seen them, I don't have to go there. I can go on dreaming of Shetland full time :)