Breed Type: Dual-Purpose Breed
Country of Origin: Finland
Breed Association Website: finnsheep.org
Finnsheep are a dual-purpose breed, producing not only meat and fiber, but milk and hides. Considered to be a “primitive” or unimproved breed, Finnsheep descend from the Nordic short-tailed breeds. They are medium size, with mature ewes ranging from 130-180 lbs and mature rams from 170 – 240 lbs. The gentle disposition of the Finn makes them easy to handle, an attractive feature for many shepherds.
Finnsheep were originally imported into the United States in the 1960s with the intention of increasing prolificacy in the flocks of commercial breeders. The Finn ewe’s ability to birth and raise multiple lambs attracted the interest of shepherds of breeds whose ewes typically delivered only one lamb per year. The prospect of crossbreeding with a Finnsheep to increase the number of lambs born per ewe made economic sense. University studies found that first generation cross Finn ewes tended to be more prolific than purebred breeds and their weaning weights were higher than those of the purebred Finns.
Finnsheep are natural mothers and their devotion to their own little flock is a source of joy and amusement for their shepherds. Finnsheep ewes appear to “count” their lambs when nursing multiples. Triplets and quads are routine for Finnsheep, and deliveries of quintuplets, sextuplets and even septuplets are not unknown.
Finnsheep appeal to many fiber enthusiasts. The softness, luster and crimp of the Finn fleece, as well as the variety of natural colors attracts spinners, knitters and felters.
Finnsheep are ideal for small farms seeking to produce food and/or fiber. They are also ideal for large commercial enterprises as their prolificacy will increase lambing percentages. Whether your goal is to raise sheep for fantastic fiber or delicious meat, or to enhance your breeding program, Finnsheep have a place on your farm.
For an excellent overview of Finnsheep see American Finnsheep by Naomi Leith Smith http://www.finnsheep.org/docs/AmericanFinnsheep.pdf.