Sheep

Although the wild ancestors of domestic sheep (Ovis aries) do not appear to have made it to the Blessed Isles in prehistoric times, the domestic varieties have been here for many thousands of years. As a result, the feral populations observed in the Otherworld reality are typically naturalised with spirit forms. However, a number of individuals either do not have or may be able to hide their spirit forms.

The Otherworld herds, being feral, have formed their own landraces across the Otherworld regions that do not always reflect the landraces and varieties seen in our reality in analogous areas. However, genetic investigation shows that the semi-feral breeds seen in the Hebrides, Shetlands, Orkneys and Faireys have crossbred with the nearest Otherworld herds from an early stage despite the formers’ comparatively small stature. While there are many traditions across the Blessed Isles of strange rams appearing in fields at the appropriate time, other regions did not show the same degree of genetic influence.

The Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis describes an island of white sheep as large as cows – although these are herded by a man – which reflects the size of Otherworld sheep herds close to the likely starting point of Clonfert in County Kerry. Tim Severin’s recreation of the imram suggests that the Island of Sheep is actually one of the Faireys (which are named for sheep). However, the familiar Faroese breed of sheep were only introduced in the ninth century – two centuries after the initial journey probably took place and one century before the story was written down in the form we are familiar with – so the sheep that inhabited that region in our reality may have been more like the imram description than the sheep of the current time.

The Imram Maele Dúin describes an island divided into three by two brass walls. In the central division was a shepherd with black and white sheep, which he sorted by throwing over one wall or another. Passing over one wall made the white sheep black and passing over the other made the black sheep white. The Imram Maele Dúin also describes an island with an acidic river that also happens to have a giant shepherd with giant sheep, again reflecting the size of some known landraces of Otherworld sheep.

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