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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How a white ram and 37 white ewes produced a flock of entirely BLACK lambs

By Daily Mail Reporter

The flock of 37 white ewes - and one white ram - has produced 60 black lambs

A farmer was left stunned when her flock of 37 white sheep gave birth to 60 lambs - that are all BLACK.

Sally Du Toit, 39, and husband Jacob, 29, helped deliver the first black lamb on April 2 this year at their smallholding near Royston, Herts.

Since then their flock of 37 white ewes has given birth to a total of 60 black lambs, all sired by a one-year-old ram called Rowley.

Incredibly, the South African Dorper ram also has a white fleece, leaving mother-of-one Mrs Du Toit baffled by the freak births.

In sheep, a white fleece is the result of a dominant gene that actively switches colour production off - that is why most sheep are white.

This means a black fleece in most sheep is recessive, so if a white ram and a white ewe are each heterozygous (have the black and white forms of the gene for fleece colour), in about 25 per cent of cases they will produce a black lamb.

This is quite a rare occurrence though, and in most white sheep breeds only a few white sheep are heterozygous for black, so black lambs are usually much rarer than this. That is why this case is so special.

Mrs Du Toit said: 'We have had 60 lambs this month and every single one of them is black but all of their parents are white.

'Usually you see just one black sheep in an entire flock and that's where you get the saying from, but all of ours have this jet black coat.

'It is amazing. We don't know why it has happened. When the first few were born we thought it was great but now lamb after lamb has come out black.

'We feel blessed. I love the colour. People are stopping on the cycle path and in their cars to look at the lambs and ask us if they are a special kind of breed.'

The first black lamb was delivered on April 2 this year at a smallholding near Royston, Herts., and since then all other lambs have been black

It is believed a genetic throwback is the reason for the colour of the lambs - but the gene must be very strong for this to happen

Mr and Mrs Du Toit have 37 ewes from three different breeds: Norfolk Horn, Suffolk and Texel.

Every adult sheep at their smallholding has a white fleece but several ewes, and Rowley the ram, do have a black face.

Peter Morris, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, has described the flock as 'odd' and 'unusual'.

He said: 'To have an all-white flock and black lambs on this scale is unusual and I have never heard of such an instance in such quantities.

'You often see one or two in a flock, and that's where the saying comes from, but 60 from 37 ewes is rather odd.

'It can be one of two things: a genetic throwback or a rogue black ram in the area has been breaking into the field.

'A genetic throwback is likely but the gene must be very strong. To have it on this number is quite rare. They are right to feel blessed.'



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