I was planning to focus on spotted Babydoll Southdown sheep. I had already made the decision to focus on Babydolls, and when I realized that they come in spotted form, well, that was a done deal.
I did realize that a breed called the Harlequin Sheep existed. It's a new breed, like our Idaho Pasture Pigs, and still in the development stage, like the IPPs. I liked them, but I didn't think they were quite as cute as the Babydolls, and I didn't quite get the point. Thus, although they had definitely made my radar screen, I didn't really pursue them.
Then, I saw a little Harlequin ram lamb posted for sale on a Facebook page -- and he was in New Hampshire! How 'bout that. It seemed worthwhile to go see him, just in case ...
... In case it turned out that he might be the cutest danged sheep imaginable. ... Which he is. He looks, in fact, an awful lot like a spotted Babydoll. Oh, there are differences, sure, but ...
No one can tell me that face is anything but ridiculously adorable. He is a sweetheart, too -- even calmer and friendlier than the Babydolls, which means that he is more like a little puppy than a sheep, because Babydolls are incredibly calm, friendly sheep!
The other thing that struck me about this boy -- and the other thing that sets him, and the harlequins, apart from the Babydolls -- is his fleece. It's nice. It's really nice. It is also soft. Soft, fine, and with a medium to high frequency crimp style ... Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like what we breed for in alpacas! The staple is also substantially longer than that of Babydolls, which makes it a more versatile fleece.
Given that Harlequin Sheep are still in the foundation stage, the offspring of a registered Harlequin and another breed may be registered as an F1 if it conforms to the Harlequin breed standard, which is very close to that of Babydolls. Thus, our Babydoll ewes -- whose wool is also relatively fine, though not nearly as impressive as this guy's -- can be used as foundation dams for a Harlequin program.
Thus, I realized that I had found our perfect sheep flock-sire. His name is Noah, and we brought him home just this evening. Howling Hill Farm is officially one of the foundation breeders of the Miniature Harlequin Sheep!
... Does this mean that we are officially "out" of Babydolls, having devoted our foundation Babydoll ewes to our new Harlequin Sheep program? I'm not sure yet. I still love the Babydoll breed as well, and there is no reason why our girls can't be used to produce registered F1 Harlequins this year and registered Babydolls the next. At this point, we are still up in the air as to our Babydoll program, but what I do know is that Noah is going to be the sire of our 2016 F1 Harlequin lambs!
K writes this stuff, for some reason that has yet to become apparent.