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The Bubble meets Spike, Arnie and the Hebrideans

Sheep may safely graze – The Bubble meets Spike, Arnie and the Hebrideans

"They’ll come running when I rattle the bucket," said Ranger Rob Matthews. He was right, we did need to move a bit up-wind but, they soon got the message. Next minute, 178 sheep galloped across the sheep field to get a morning scatter feed from Rob. Standing prominent was Spike. He is a four-horned Hebridean who is unusual in a breed that normally only has two horns. This doubling of horns is a genetic mutation but he seems none the worse for it. A breeding throwback to earlier days when most Hebrideans had four, where now two are usual, both male and female.

White fleeced Arnie, the sole half Herdwick and half Hebridean, was equally prominent and noticeable. The flock got down to steady feeding whilst we talked, staying close together, with Spike gently suggesting that he would like more food!

Rob said: "The sheep are on a ‘summer holiday’ from their owners, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust who let National Trust Formby host them to keep the grass down and let the dune flowers thrive. They are very hardy, that’s bred in and they use the shrubs and trees of the pasture for shelter or shade. They crèche gather together for safety and warmth. The brown and black fleeces are thick and it will soon be time for shearing."

Rob explained: "A fleece is worth around 99p for its wool, so it’s not really a business proposition, more to keep the sheep comfortable. There is a water trough, but they get most of their water from the grass."

"Formby is a great place for them and they do add to the landscape," added Rob, "but we are always concerned that dog owners act responsibly and stop any chasing or worrying at once. Notices explain this in detail."

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