Monday, March 26, 2012

Painted Sheep of Ireland and Scotland

By TL Sumner
The Orange Sheep of Glen QuaichLast month, one of my favorite Scottish blogs, Scotland Here and Now, had a post about painted sheep. You read that right. Sheep, painted colors. Like orange and red and even tartan. For those animal rights activists among us, no need call PETA. They use a sheep spray which is perfectly safe for the wooly flock.

RED sheep
After the initial shock of seeing the striking photo of an orange sheep, I learned that sheep breeders in Ireland and Scotland paint their sheep to identify them. That way if one of theirs ends up with another breeder’s flock, it can be returned to, or claimed by their rightful owner. A “dye job” can also make them more presentable for show or sale.

Blue SheepPainting sheep can also be a form of art. When Andrew Jack painted his flock blue to commemorate St. Andrews Day, it caused quite a stir for motorists driving by the field where they graze on the pyramids in Bathgate.

Jack told BBC News, "It is a bit of fun and it does brighten things up." He’s painted the flock purple to raise awareness for Erskine, a charity that supports ex-service men and women in Scotland, and earlier this month, they were painted green for St. Patrick’s Day. The field, situated beside the M8, is one of the busiest motorways in Scotland and the flock is now affectionately known as the M8 Pyramid Sheep. They even have their own Facebook page.

Another farmer claimed that painting her flock with tiger stripes deterred a wild cat in the area from stalking and attacking her sheep. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a photo of that, but I did find, drumroll please... a short video of tartan sheep at a farm in East Lothian.
Have you seen any painted sheep in your travels to the UK? What were your initial reactions when you saw them?
Flickr Photo Credits:
  • Orange Sheep of Glen Quaich by P. Stubbs
  • Red Sheep by Bathgate Wildlife
  • Blue Sheep by frog n fries


Victoria Roberts said...

No painted sheep, but my son tried to paint the dog once.

Great post, Tosha!

Pat McDermott said...

Fabulous post, Tosha! Love the tartanized sheep. I've seen the sheep in Ireland with dabs of color on their rumps, but not completely dyed.

Dana Rodgers said...

That is hilarious Victoria Roberts! That sounds like something one of my children would try.

I can't say I've ever seen painted sheep before, but how fun! I can't even imagine how long it took to paint an entire flock tartan plaid. :-)

Thanks for a great post Tosha!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Yes, we saw some painted dark blue and some red. It does add a touch of class to the landscape. Loved it. They sold postcards with photos of the sheep in plaid. I wonder what the sheep think about being so colorful...

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Very cool post, Tosha. We were at a Scottish festival in Florida in February and the sheep used in the border collie demonstration had dots painted on their rumps. :)

Renee Vincent said...

Great post Tosha! I can't wait to go to Ireland and catch sight of these painted livestock in person!

Tosha Sumner said...

Thanks everyone. I'm glad you liked the post.

@Victoria - Oh my - what did your son use to paint the dog?

@Paisley - Were you shocked when you saw them? I think I enjoy how striking the sheep look against the landscape.

@Renee - I can't wait to see them in person too.

Sarah Hoss said...

I loved this article. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Back in '97 I took a driving tour of Ireland. Noticed the painted sheep and just wondered WHY? Was it local "colour"? I was just paging through some images from around Glendalough, and saw a couple of painted sheep and the memory returned to me.