Here you will find a simple explanation of the colours, patterns and markings we have in our sheep. We are by no means experts, this is based upon our own experiences and some basic knowledge of Shetland and Icelandic sheep genetics, explained here in very simple terms :)

 There are 3 factors that influence the appearance of our sheep. You have the Base Colour, the Pattern and the White Spotting/No White Spotting.

Possible Base Colours = Black or Brown.

Possible Patterns = No Pattern (Solid Colour), White (Solid white is a pattern, not a base colour), Badgerface, Mouflon and Grey.

Spotting = Our sheep can either have the spotting gene or not. Spotting is the apperance of white markings, which can vary from a single white foot, to full blown spotted coat.

The Base Colour

Despite how varied our sheep may look, there are actually only 2 options for the base colour. Either Black (sometimes referred to as 'Dark phase') or Brown (sometimes called 'Moorit' or 'Light phase'). Both of these colours can fade with bleaching in the sun, confusing sometimes the black appears chocolate brown but once sheared the sheep will appear its true black colour again. There is also another genetic factor which makes the colour 'grey out' with age, it doesn't mean the sheep is really old but simply as they age they get more and more white/grey hairs appear in the fleece, fading the colour, this doesn't disappear with shearing. Brown lambs are very dark, almost black at birth, but you can tell they are brown colour by the pigment of the skin around their eyes. All sheep have to be 1 of these two base colours, they can then additionally have a pattern (or 2) on top of that base colour and/or white spotting, completely changing the apperance of the sheep, but it will still be either a black or brown base colour.
Black Base
Brown Base
The Pattern

There are 5 possible patterns our sheep can have, and with some patterns it is possible to have 2 on top of each other. The pattern goes on top of the actual base colour.

Solid/No Pattern
When the sheep has no visable pattern and appears as a solid colour. In other words the base colour genes are not altered in any way. It is not possible for a solid colour sheep to carry a pattern gene either. But the other patterns are dominant over Solid, so if you breed a Solid/no pattern sheep with a Badger Faced pattern sheep its possible to get Badger Faced lambs. Like all the patterns, Solid/no pattern can also have the White Spotting gene present, as see in the examples below.

 Black Base Solid/No Pattern

Brown Base Solid/No Pattern


Yes white is a pattern and not a base colour, basically in simple terms it causes the absense of colour. So you may have a black base sheep, but with the white pattern it turns off the colour producing cells, resulting in a white fleece. White is very dominant in sheep.


This pattern causes areas of the sheep to be a lighter colour. People often wrongly think the sheep has dark markings on its face and legs, when in fact those areas show the true base colour. And this pattern actually causes areas of the sheep to be lighter. You can then have white spotting so sometimes the actual base colour is hardly visable, and its difficult to tell whether the sheep has a black or brown base.

Black Base Badgerface
Brown Base Badgerface
This is essentially the same pattern as Badgerface, except in Mouflon the areas that stay dark in Badgerface sheep go a lighter colour. It is like the reverse of Badgerface. All these patterns vary in shades/degres and some appear better/are more defined. Many of our mouflon patterned sheep are not fantastically well defined, and because a lot have white markings, its hard to see the whole of the pattern. I should also point our that Mouflon lambs are born a whole manner of different shades, and change dramatically as they age! Unless they have a brown base, the bodies of many lambs, that look lovely shaded of browns at birth, will darken a lot until they are almost black. But they still retain the Mouflon pattern, so will have a lighter underbelly and facial markings etc. Brown based Mouflon sheep will lighten with age.
Black Base Mouflon
Brown Base Mouflon
This is a pattern I honestly don't know much about, nor have much experience with. I believe one of our ewes may show the grey pattern, along with badgerface.
Daffy as a lamb.

 And as an adult.

Badgerface Mouflon
This is not a separate pattern, but is in fact where Badgerface and Mouflon patterns are both present, and as neither is dominant over the other, both are visable. Because they are essentially the same pattern, but reversed, they almost cancel each other our, thus very little of either marking is visible, they almost have a ghost like appearance.
Brown Base Example

Black Base Example

There are only two choices when is comes to spotting, the sheep will either have spotting, or it won't have spotting. A sheep with no spotting can still carry the gene for spotting, thus can produce spotted lambs. Spotting is visible as white markings over the base colour and/or pattern of the sheep. It can be as little as a white dot on the head, even just a few white hairs or it can be so extensive as to even cover the base colour of the sheep entirely, producing a sort of albino like sheep. It can be had to tell whether a sheep like that has white spotting or is simply white patterned. Many people look at say Jacob sheep and see a sheep that has black spots, where as in fact the sheep has white markings, and the black spots are what is left of the origional base colour, the white is on top of the black, not the black on top of the white. Spotting does not cause a rigid pattern like the pattern gene, but it does tend to get passed on in generalised areas. The strongest being (in order of strength), on top of the head, the rear legs, tail, front legs, facial stripe, the chest, under belly and as the spotting gets stronger these areas will increase in their size.
Below are some examples of spotting in our sheep.

Black Base Spotting
Brown Base Spotting
Other Colour Factors
There a few of other factors that affect colour. One is 'Greying out/Silvering', another is 'Bleaching' and the other is a pigment called 'Phaeomelanin' which is what causes tan/gingery colour in the face and legs of white patterned sheep.

This is when solid colour (none patterned) sheep turn silver with age. If it is a sheep with white spotting the silvering can become so strong that the coloured areas are barely visible next to the white spotted areas. It predominantly affects the area on the back, just above the bum, and can spread out from there, its almost like when you see a 'Silver back Gorilla'. Sheep affected by the genes that cause Silvering are born completely black/brown and gradually as they get older they will turn this wonderful silvery colour, it doesn't affect the head/leg or under belly areas. Some sheep turn more silver than others, and some will never silver. Silvering doesn't mean the sheep is old, it happens with age but
will usually start when the sheep is a year/2 years old and by the time they are 3 they can look very different. It usually affects mostly the outer wool, and the roots will remain dark, when the sheep is sheared it will usually once again look much darker.

 Black Base Examples only:

This is where the fleece gets gradually bleached by the sun, it doesn't affect all sheep the same, some appear to have more of a tendency to bleach where as other fleeces won't get bleached at all and will remain dark. With bleaching, once you shear the fleece the sheep will be back to its origional dark base colour. Many people wrongly refer to some of our sheep as 'chocolate brown' sheep, when in fact they are actually black, just bleached with the sun.
Holly at 4 months old

 Holly at 1 year old

This is pigment which gives the fleece a sort of creamy/tan colour, it appears mostly on the head, legs and tail of White patterned sheep but can also appear on the lighter parts of Badgerface
patterned sheep. It cannot appear on areas of White Spotting. If there is n abundance of the pigment lambs can appear a very dark orangey/rusty colour but this will fade with age.

 On a White Patterned Ewe

 On a Badgerface Patterned Lamb