This month's Online Guild workshop is a Bowmont Fleece Challenge. When it was first scheduled last year, I was very interested and signed up. Having never heard of the Bowmont breed, I immediately went to Oklahoma State's Breeds of Livestock website to look it up. They didn't list it!
Actually the breed is quite rare, though not rare in the sense of how one usually thinks of rare breeds, i.e. an old breed in danger of becoming extinct. Rather this is a fairly new breed, with approximately only 100 breeding ewes in the UK, many of which are not even being bred to Bowmont rams.
The breed was developed 20 years ago, when a team of geneticists and fiber biologists at the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, determined to develop a breed which would be of economic benefit for hill farmers. Their goal was to produce a breed with fleece of superior fineness, like Merino, but hardy enough to survive the conditions on the British Isles, unlike Merino. They chose British Shetland ewes and Saxon Merino rams. The offspring were then bred back with Merino, to produce a core stock of 75% Merino and 25% Shetland.
For the next 15 years, the Macaulay Institute implimented a selective breeding program to improve fiber quality, developing the Bowmont breed of today. Unfortunately, the Institute's research farms were eventually closed, and the Bowmont flock was either sold or slaughtered.
Lesley and Roger Prior, of Devon Fine Fibres in the UK, were able to purchase a small flock of 16 ewes and two rams, in hopes of preserving this valuable new breed. Lesley is a member of the Online Guild, and made the fleece available for a guild fiber challenge. All the photos posted here are hers, and are used with her gracious permission.
Bowmont Breed Characteristics:
* Adults weigh 40 - 45 kgs
* Average fleece is 2.5 - 4 kgs
* Fleece Color - white
* Micron count between 15 - 20 (fine Merino is usually 18 - 22)
* Lower lanolin content than Merino
For the challenge, I was able to purchase 50 grams of clean Bowmont fiber, plus 10 grams of Scottish Cashmere ( also from Lesley's flocks) for blending with the Bowmont. I will report on these in my next posts.
Next - Assessing the Bowmont fleece.
Posted 21 April 2007 at http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com
Bowmont Fleece 2 - Fiber Assessment
Bowmont Fleece 3 - Spinning
Bowmont Fleece 4 - A Problem
Bowmont Fleece 5 - A Comparison
Bowmont Fleece 6 - The Yarn