Sheep growers are in for a surprise at their annual convention this weekend as the Great Plains Zoo has made a unique contribution to the event.
The zoo, located in Sioux, South Dakota, donated wool from a pair of their Jacob sheep which was used to make a one-of-a-kind practice shawl. The shawl will then feature in the “Fleece to Shawl” competition, which takes place during the convention.
Elizabeth A Whealy, president and chief executive of the Great Plains Zoo, described the partnership as a fun one, when commenting to the Zoo’s official website.
“Jacob sheep wool is especially prized for spinning, since it’s light, springy and low in lanolin. For us, this partnership is a great way to help tell the story of this threatened sheep breed,” she added.
Jacob sheep are a very rare breed of sheep which have a distinctive black and white coat. The sheep, which can grow up to six horns, have a long history dating as far back as biblical times, hence the name ‘Jacob sheep’. Due to their robust head wear, some farmers even use Jacob sheep to protect other livestock from predators!
It is understood that once the competition has taken place, the special shawl will be donated back to the zoo as a gesture of thanks.
Mina Doerner - the creator of the shawl - first got in touch with the zoo earlier this summer regarding the use of the the sheep’s wool. Jacob sheep are renowned for producing fine quality wool and a single sheep can create up to ten pounds of usable material.
“You can tell these animals were well taken care of by the quality of the wool,” Ms Doerner commented.
Having previously been sheared in preparation for warmer weather, the sheep had no objections to their wool being used to help create such an exclusive piece of knitwear.
Knitters looking to to create a similar style of shawl could use Rowan’s British sheep breeds chunky undyed yarn, which contains elements of Jacobs wool.