HOG ISLAND SHEEP
Hog Island sheep are a breed that descend from English sheep brought to America in the
1700's by colonist to Northumberland county Virginia. Today, the breed is endangered and preserved by organizations because of its relevance to American history and is thought to have traits somewhat lost in more modern breeds.
First a bit about Hog Island itself, laying off the Delmarva Peninsula coast of Virginia, one of the so called barrier islands southeast of Exmore and Willis Wharf in Northampton county, Virginia. It is four miles long and two miles wide, Hog Island was colonized in the 17th century soon after the Jamestown Colony. It is thought John Smith first discovered the island and noted it was full of a small species of bear living in the cane breaks which were numerous on the island. Earliest history records dated 1672 is a “letter patent” to grant tracts to a group of colonist, 23 men and two women. They were so isolated from the world that there is no history to be told.
The Indians named it Machipongo which means fine dust and flies. Mosquitoes made the island uninhabitable to them and they only visited certain periods of the year to fish and hunt. A waste land, full of swamp grass, sea meadow fields , fit only for grazing herds of wiry cattle.
At one time it had a town, Broadwater, forty famlies and a Life Saving Station and lighthouse, all gone since 1930 when a storm brought flooding and erosion . Most of the homes at Broadwater were moved by barge to Willis Wharf area on the main lands. Hog Island is now under ownership of Virginia Coast Reserve of the Nature Conservancy.
When the Hog Island population left the island, the most of their stok of sheep were left to survive on their own. They became feral, hardy and efficient in foraging and reproduction, forming a distinct breed with fewer than 200 sheep. There is a society of private owners doing research and conservation and The United States Department of Agriculture's National Animal Germplasm Program.
What are the Hog Island Sheep good for ? Mainly for their wool which is medium fine to medium course, can be colored silver, caramel or dark brown, easily carded, spun and felted.
Source: April 4 2017 Cape Gazette / wikipedia.org / fingerlakeswoolen mill.