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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Would ewe believe it? The lambs bred to look like pandas (complete with black eyes and ears)

Farmer researched sheep genetics to breed panda lambs By Victoria Allen Bear-ing a striking resemblance: The panda lambs bred to look like Edinburgh Zoo's star attractions Scotland's efforts to breed panda cubs may have fallen distinctly flat. But one farmer has come up with a solution – sheep that look like pandas. Six panda lambs have been born on Windy Gowl Farm in Carlops, Peeblesshire, already this season. They each have distinctive black rings around their eyes, white faces and a pair of black ears - making them the spitting image of Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian. 'Sweet and adorable': The lamb's owners were amazed when they were born with panda-like black eyes Farmer Jill Noble, 58, said: ‘2011, when we started breeding, was the year of the panda and you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about the new additions to Edinburgh Zoo. ‘That’s when we came up with the idea of creating panda lambs. We knew it would be hard to do because the parent sheep looked nothing like pandas. ‘When they were born and we saw their black eyes we were amazed – it had actually worked! They are completely sweet and very adorable looking.‘ As it turns out, we have done a bit better than the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo who don’t have any babies yet.’ The farmer, who built Windy Gowl Farm 24 years ago, had never cross-bred sheep when she started her experiment last November. It took hours of research into the genetic background of the black, white and coloured sheep used to see if they would be the perfect fit. Breeding blend: Jill Noble spent hours researching the genetic background of black, white and coloured sheep to get the perfect variety She will not now reveal the types of sheep used for fear of giving her secret away. But aptly enough, the first ‘panda lamb’ was born on April Fool’s Day, followed by five more females. ‘Ignore the first one being born on April Fool’s Day - I promise this is not a joke,’ Miss Noble laughed. ‘The black eyes are not drawn on with marker pen and they don’t come off. ‘Everyone is very amused and very impressed by the appearance of these young lambs. We are thinking of names at the moment and are definitely considering calling them Yang Guang and Tian Tian. ‘Because we have so many, we might have a Sweetie and Sunshine too.’ So many lambs were born, Jill Noble is considering naming them after the panda at Edinburgh Zoo Missed opportunity: Tian Tian and Yang Guang failed to mate during a 36-hour ovulation window The original Yan Guang and Tian Tian, or Sweetie and Sunshine, have not done so well in the reproductive stakes. They had a window of just 36 hours to breed this week but failed to do so. The zoo having ruled out artificial insemination, it will now be another year before the pandas can try for cubs again. In the meantime, the panda lambs could satisfy the desire for all things black and white. Miss Noble expects to get a higher price for them at market and thinks there will be a high demand from smallholders with a few livestock, who are always interested in the prettiest animals. The lambs, which derive from both Scottish and Icelandic sheep, will soon have their own babies and the farmer is waiting excitedly to see how they will look. Miss Noble, who has 120 sheep, Icelandic cows and Red Aberdeen Angus cattle, said: ‘I am really hoping the panda lambs might take off. I certainly think they are amazing and who knows – they could become the breed of the future.’ source:dailymail


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