My father is an Irish sheep farmer, raising his sheep on the gentle grassy slopes of his County Armagh farm, however, he buys them when they are young lambs from the West of Ireland, just as his father did before him! I grew up going with him to the wild and untamed mountains of Connemara in County Galway, to buy lambs in the Spring time. The ewes and lambs came off the mountains, and once bought, my father transported them in trucks to our farm where those young sheep were in for a treat – used to scrub grass on the mountains, they would now graze on lush lowland grass fed by the Newry canal that runs through the farm. Every morning from March to December I would pull my bedroom curtains and gaze at those Connemara lambs, and loved to see how contented there were in those green Irish fields.
The distinctive Connemara lambs are hardy, with shorter legs, sturdy feet and a broad back to weather the mountainous terrain of the West of Ireland, and those wee lambs thrive on foraging their diet of grasses, wild flowers, wild herbs and heather. Another distinguishing mark is their heads that are generally a light black color or slightly speckled. Of course, there is an occasional black sheep, but they say there is always one in every family…right?
So, Ireland is full of sheep – millions of sheep roam through the fields and mountains there and are now very much a symbol of Ireland adorning postcards, bags, shirts, you name it! In fact, when we travel to the West of Ireland with Shamrock and Peach Tours our guests are always asking us to stop the coach to take photos of those cute we critters, so yes, we do brake for sheep!… see?
(oh, and photo credits to my husband Gary, who took these lovely sheep photos when in Ireland last year…)
Judith the Irish foodie