Fat-tailed sheep settle in on the farm

Solms Delta > Deep Delta Blog > Fat-tailed sheep settle in on the farm
February 11th, 2010

The small herd of fat-tailed sheep that arrived recently at Solms-Delta are another piece of the indigenous jigsaw that is being re-assembled on the farm. They have now taken up residence in a kraal next door to the Dik Delta Fynbos Park. Rather like old Noah in the Bible, Mark Solms has been collecting the indigenous breeds of animals from this region into to his ark, if not two-by-two, then five-by-five.  
These remarkable fat-tailed sheep belong to one of the largest breeds of indigenous sheep descended from the animals originally owned and farmed by the Khoe-Khoe. Hein Joubert, one of the curators of the Dik Delta Fynbos garden says that this herd belongs to the line of animals once owned by Dawid Kruiper, the controversial tribal leader. There are many variants but this herd probably belongs to the Blinkhaar Ronderib Afrikaner breed. This is an extremely hardy mutton/wool breed. According to the experts there are two known varieties of this breed, one which has soft, fine, shiny hair being the Blinkhaar Ronderib Afrikaner and a second which has coarse hair, the Steekhaar Ronderib Afrikaner. The ribs of this breed are oval in shape, and that, together with the shiny or coarse coat, give them this distinctive name.
I have read that these sheep are well adapted to desert conditions and can survive without water for a long time. Even more curiously the Blinkhaar Ronderibs have heels that are close together, like the gemsbok, enabling them to move over rocky or barren ground. Hein reports that their behaviour, too, is in many respects more buck-like than sheep-like. (It took 18 men three hours to persuade them to return to the kraal after a day’s grazing in the fynbos!)
The distinctive shiny coat was used to make skin blankets (velkomberse). The fat tail (which can sometimes make up to 10% of body weight) is sometimes called the “sjambok.” I wonder why? Perhaps because it can swing menacingly? 

Submitted by Guest Blogger: Prof. John van Zyl – retired professor of communications (Wits) now living in Franschhoek with his wife, Charlotte, who is administrator of the Delta Trust.


RSS Feed Subscribe to RSS Feed

2 Comment to “Fat-tailed sheep settle in on the farm”

  1. Patty Kolbe says:

    I imagine if the tail was 10% of the body weight, a twitch could pack a mean punch!

  2. Solms Delta says:

    No wonder they call those tails sjamboks. There’s a lot of fat stored in it.

Leave a Comment