The Ouessant breed originated on the Island of Ouessant (Ile d’ Ouessant) about a dozen miles off the coast of France (Brittany). Their exceptionally small size is attributed to the limited pasture and consequent selection for small sheep. They were common on the Island until the mid 1900′s when they were replaced with larger, modern breeds. The breed almost disappeared and was saved from extinction by a group of aristocrats, who allowed the sheep to graze on the land surrounding their chateaux on the mainland. Today, there are several thousand of these sheep in Europe.
Ouessant rams have beautiful horns that curl into an outward turning spiral. The ewes are polled (hornless). The breed is short-tailed and does not require tail docking. They are often friendlier than most sheep breeds, more like pets than livestock. Alternate names are Ushant and Breton Dwarf. The ewes generally breed in their second year and almost always have single lambs, rarely twins. They sometimes are fertile in their first year. The rams, however, are fertile at as early as 4 months. Ouessant sheep are reputed to be hardy, easy keepers, to lamb easily, and be good mothers.