Jacob Sheep, by their primitive nature, are thrifty and easy to keep. They browse as well as graze, working as excellent fence-row cleaners and weed eaters. They are easy to handle because of their relatively small size, with mature ewes weighing 80-120 lbs. & rams weighing 120-180 lbs. Jacobs thrive in hot or cold climates, and many Jacob shepherds find them quite resistant to parasites.
Jacob ewes generally cycle in the cooler months of the fall (cooler weather also restores the potency of the ram) and have two or three lambs in the spring. Ewes will begin to cycle during the first fall following their birth & most often the ewe’s first lamb is a single. The Jacob ewe is an excellent protective mother. Because of her primitive nature, she is a very easy lambing ewe. Though a watchful shepherd’s eye is always recommended, most ewes prefer to lamb alone & without interference. Lambs may be weaned at two months of age, but many shepherds do not separate lambs & allow them to wean naturally at about 4 months of age.
Scroll down to read Jan’s own story of getting started with Jacobs!
Jacob sheep exhibit a loose herding instinct. They prefer to follow, rather than be herded. They have strong family ties. Jacobs are very suspicious of strangers, but are quickly accustomed to their caretaker. They are playful, show a sense of humor and a keen sense of curiosity. They may keep their distance, but are always watching what is going on. They show personalities individuality not shown in many other breeds.
Jacob sheep are a very ancient breed that probably originated in Syria some 3000 years ago.
Pictorial evidence traces the breed’s movement through North Africa, Sicily, Spain, and on to England. By 1970 Jacob sheep were so rare in England that the Jacob Sheep Society was formed to help preserve them. Due largely to their efforts Jacob sheep numbers have increased dramatically in Great Britain. Jacob sheep were imported into the U.S. for game parks and zoos in the early 1900’s.
In 1988 the Jacob Sheep Breeders Assoc. (JSBA) was formed in the USA to ensure the conservation of the breed. This is done through inspections, registration and education. Additional imports from Britain in the 1950″s and 1960’s enhanced the genetic pool. At the time the breed was dwindling. Active preservation efforts saved what was left of the breed and established a healthy genetic pool, which assures the breed’s survival.
These handsome and hardy sheep are ideal for small flock owners as well as large breeders. They are small and efficient, allowing more sheep per acre. They are easily handled, rarely need veterinarian care, and show a greater resistance to foot related problems and internal parasites. Ewes lamb easily, usually twins, and are up and nursing quickly.
The produce beautifully unique pelts. Tanned hides and horn buttons are additional products of these wonderful little guys. With “goat like” personalities they are very smart, curious and tend to tame down fairly easily.
Pictured below: Jan’s own flock over the years.
The Beginning of My Jacob Flock
My interest in Jacob sheep began some 20+ years ago, on a small farm in Kitsap County. My late husband, a Farrier by trade, Show Jumper by choice, came home one evening… scuffing his toe in the dirt and asking, “Can we have a lamb, he’s free, he won’t eat much and I’ll take care of him”. Well I’d heard that one before (a “free” rabbit, the subsequent $1000.00 fence to keep him in and other critters out and a lot of rearranging to accommodate a house rabbit). After about an hour of pleading, we were off to his client’s farm and on our way back home with a 3 week old Jacob ram lamb.
The steep learning curve started that very night, things like how to bottle feed a bummer lamb, what to feed a lamb, where to keep the baby that night and the discovery that “you can’t have just one”. The next morning, I was up early and on my way back to the farm, to BUY another one, a 4 week old Jacob ewe. So Jacob (my husband’s choice) and Ferry Tails Loraine (Rainey for short) were the start of our flock. At one time we had over 15 sheep, 6 horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 2 house rabbits to round out the crew.
Many things have transpired since that summer day, way back when… a move from Kitsap Co. to the Olympic Peninsula in 2000. We purchased 40 acres of raw land, with a river running through it and an unfinished house, which we were able to transform into the farm of our dreams, for us and our four-legged family.
After four years and the untimely passing of my husband, my will to continue this way of life intensified. Being able to stay on the land, gave me the opportunity to provide a place for all of the animals to live out their lives peacefully. It was during that time, I found the opening to fulfill my own dream, starting a Fiber business, and so, Jacobs’ Fleece Farm was born.
Those years were full of adventures, honing my spinning skills, learning to weave, growing my business while participating in Fiber shows, Farmers Markets and Jefferson Co Farm Tours. All the while building a reputation for prize winning fleeces, wonderful fiber for spinning, hand spun yarn and lots of hand knit creations. I am now on a much smaller farm just a mile north of my old one, my flock numbers 12 and am continuing to ever spread my wings and do the things I love.
To date, all those decisions I’ve made have turned out to be some of the best ones of my life. I’m in a position, now, to say to myself… This life that I’ve chosen indeed feeds my soul.