Their wool can be shades of light or dark brown (or, very rarely, white), and like the Icelandic and some other breeds, they can shed their wool in the summer. Ryder suggests that the darker Soay are more primitive that the lighter, wooly ones. (Ryder, Changes, 501)
Soay, like the other older members of the Northern European Short-tail group, have two coats, but the coats are so similar in many cases, that it is difficult to to tell the two apart. (Oklahoma State University, Breeds of Livestock Project) As of 2012 there were less than 1200 of these animals in Britain. There is a small population of them in the United States and Canada as well, some of which are pure British Soay, while others have had Shetland outcrosses. These small sheep may be as close to “period” animals as we can find.
- Staple length: 1.5-4 inches according to the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. I have handled samples from 4 different fleeces and none of them were much longer than 2.25 inches.
- Fiber description: The inner coat is very well developed and hard to distinguish from the outer coat in wooly fleeces (both in terms of length and diameter). The wool from these sheep typically ranges from 29-36 microns.
- Lanolin: Neither of my sources list typical yield, but I can say that the samples I have handled seemed exceptionally greasy (prompting me to wash one sample three times before spinning).
- Fleece size: .75-2lbs according to the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, but OSU lists it is 3-5lbs.
- Animal size: 55-75lbs for rams and 48-52lbs for ewes. These are small sheep with goat-like builds.
Ekarius, Carol and Robson, Deborah. The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn. Storey Publishing, LLC, 2011.
Oklahoma State University. “Breeds of Livestock Project”. www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/
Ryder, M. L. Sheep & Man. Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1983.
Ryder, M. L. “Changes in the fleece of sheep following domestication (with a note on the coat of cattle”.
Ryder, M. L. "A Survey of European Primitive Breeds of Sheep," Annales de Génétique et de Sélection Animale. 13, no. 4: 381−418, 1981.
Ryder, Michael L.. "The History of Sheep Breeds in Britain." The Agricultural History Review, 12, no. 1: 1−12, 65-82. 1964.