Hebridean sheep are direct descendents of the ancient short-tailed sheep, perhaps of Viking origins, which were once shepherded in the north-western fringes of Europe, including the Western Isles and Highlands of Scotland. Over the centuries, Hebridean ewes have been selected by natural systems for hardiness in all weathers, ease of lambing, milkiness and good mothering instincts.
Hebridean sheep were largely replaced in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland during the nineteenth century by their successor, the Blackface, as landowners and government agencies promoted the abolition of the native breed. Once a rare breed, the sheep have enjoyed a dramatic revival because of their adaptation for low input farming and ability to graze sensitive ecosystems without damage.
As can be seen from the photos, Hebrideans have black wool which often goes grey with age and both males and females have two or four horns. Their tails are naturally short, approaching, but not extending beyond, the hocks.
Meat from pure-bred lambs has a distinctive gamey flavour and is exceptionally lean. Generally it is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than "commercial" lamb although this depends to a certain extent on feeding.
Selected fleece is sought-after by hand-spinners and weavers but there is also a growing demand for woollen products using un-dyed yarn (see link to Helenís wool and woollies above).