While not everyone agrees on the genetic origins of the Gotland Sheep, they do agree that the breed originated on the Island of Gotland, off the east coast of Sweden in the early 20th century. Today’s Gotland sheep belong to the Northern European short-tailed sheep family and are thought to be the result from breeding the Gute, (native primitive sheep on the island) with the Karakul and the Romanov sheep that the Vikings brought back from Russia. The primitive horned Gute sheep still exist on the island of Gotland today although they are rare. The modern Gotland also referred to as the Gotland Peltsheep has been selectively bred since the 1920’s to produce a truly multi-purpose sheep. Gotland sheep are found in Sweden, Great Britain, Denmark, New Zealand and Australia. Gotland sheep were established in the US through artificial insemination beginning in 2003.
Gotland sheep are hardy, medium sized and fine boned. They are hornless and have no wool on their heads or legs. They are friendly, curious and docile sheep making them a perfect breed for family farms. The ewes are great mothers and the lambs are very vigorous at birth.
Gotland wool with its incredible color, luster and silky texture is the magic in the Magi Elven cloak from the Lord of the Rings movie (pictured above). The wool and fabric for these cloaks came from the Stansborough Fibres in New Zealand. Traditional looms, dating back to the 1890’s were used to weave the fabric. Below is a photo of Barry and Greybeard, one of the many fleece producers for the Lord of the Rings fabric. I was unable to determine who is greybeard and who is Barry.
Gotland fleece, a long luster wool is noted for its distinctive clearly defined lustrous curls. Gotland sheep produce a fleece weight of 5 ½ -11 lbs with a high yield of 75%. The average micron count is between 27-33 with a staple length of 7”. The natural colors are spectacular and range from white to almost black, although predominate colors are light silver to almost black. The pelts are known worldwide for their softness and smooth silky locks. Knitters, weavers and felters also prize this wool for the luster, softness and fabulous natural colors. The natural colors can stand alone, but they also over dye beautifully. The yarn from Gotland wool is shiny, lightweight with wonderful drape and durability.