Rooing a Sheep (Levi!)

Have you ever wondered how wild sheep lose their wool without humans to shear them? Well, wild sheep naturally shed their wool! This trait has been bred out of almost every domesticated sheep because individual animals lose their wool at different times. Rooing a sheep also takes more time then shearing. As sheep flocks grew people wanted to quickly shear all their sheep at once and the rooing gene was selected against which is to bad because for a small flock trying to make ends meet, rooing is the way to go!

Shetland sheep are considered a primitive or un-improved breed. Sometimes I think this makes people think that  Shetlands are not as good as modern breeds. But I think it means, Shetlands got it right the first time. No need to improve on something that is already pretty great! Although some breeders of Shetlands are selecting against the roo-ing gene many still carry the “primitive” trait.

Here is a picture of some native Shetland Islanders rooing their sheep. Rooing is a natural process and does not hurt the sheep.


A sheep is ready to be rooed when there is a natural break in the fiber that allows it to be easily pulled off. You can see when a sheep is ready because tuffs of wool will begin to come loose on their bodies. You may also see bits of wool that have been rubbed off around the pen. Without human intervention the sheep would rub the wool off on rocks, trees and other similar surfaces in their environments.

Today while I was feeding the rams I noticed Levi was starting to roo. It was my first time rooing a sheep and I loved it! It took a while but Levi was wagging his tail the whole time. The wool came off with just a light amount of pulling. Because Joel and I were not using shears there was no risk of nicks or cuts. The sheep’s own body decided how much wool to keep on so I didn’t worry about him being to cold. Each sheep cost us about $12 to shear so this method is also a lot cheaper. I know several other sheep we own  roo and I am excited to practice more.

Here are some before and after pictures of Levi.

You can see the wool on his belly is starting to separate on his belly. I also found a few tuffs of it on objects in the pen.


A few tuffs on his neck, and legs would not come off…but all and all I think he looks pretty good!



Levi says, “Give me the rest of that cabbage!” The wool on the ground is the stuff with poop tags on it. I didn’t bring enough bags for it!



12 responses to “Rooing a Sheep (Levi!)

  1. Warning…….this is addictive, the more you roo, the more you want to roo. lol

  2. I think it is a good idea to do this the natural way – love the ‘before and after’ pictures

  3. I’ll have to give my ewes a closer look today. I’d love to have Shetlands that roo, but mine are wild & don’t like being handled.

    • Levi just stood there, but for a more wild sheep you could halter them and tie them to a fence I think that would work just fine:) I consider my ewes on average pretty tame but I will mostly likely halter them. My rams will stand around for anything, the girls get more restless.

  4. That is amazing! What is the fleece like? How long did it take?

    • The fleece should be even better to spin because it has no short tips. Levi has a shorter staple but it is soft and crimpy. Even though he was not coated it has very little vm. The fleece is for sale if you are interested.

  5. That is awesome! I knew about the break(I have Shetlands) but didn’t ever even think about harvesting their fleece like that. So something new to try this year! The pics are awesome, too! Thanks for sharing this great info. and your pictures.

  6. Pingback: Do Gotland Sheep Shed Their Wool? « Living with Gotlands

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