if only it were that easy!
This covers a lot of subjects, but right now I am talking about the color of Jacob sheep.
For reference here is a lilac ewe, in the back, and a black/white ewe in the front.
Jacobs are technically a black sheep with white spots, but the black is seldom true black. There are grays, browns, chocolate, lilac, and other various shades and mixtures.
Lilac is recessive to black, but I just recently read that the term lilac refers to everything not black. This makes things a little muddy because in my mind when you breed a lilac (recessive) to another lilac (recessive) you should always get lilac. The part that gets muddy is when you get a sheep that isn’t the traditional lilac color and not black. This color supposedly falls into the lilac category but when you breed this animal to a traditional lilac, you can get black, lilac, or ??? It would make sense that this color should be called something entirely different – but what???
I believe Reno falls in this ‘other’ category and am really looking forward to his lambs. He was bred to lilacs and blacks.
Here is a close-up of his fleece – I didn’t have enough hands to part the fleece and photograph it – but it is brown all the way down to his skin. I’m curious to see what he looks like when we shear him in the Spring.
I have been thinking about this quite a bit recently because of two conversations I had last week. One person bought a couple lambs out of a ram of ours and she knew that the dams were traditional lilac and this ram is registered as lilac, but the lambs were black. She was questioning whether this ram was really the sire. I would have questioned it as well and I don’t believe this particular ram should have been registered lilac, but he also isn’t black.
The other lamb looked black when she was born but began changing as she matured. The owner sent me pictures after shearing and she definitely isn’t black.
As I was feeding the ewes tonight I took pictures of all the different colors…
Three different blacks. There is also speculation that there is an early graying gene that affects the color.
One of the BLACK blacks.
Here are two different lilacs. I’m guessing the early graying gene also affects the lilacs. Notice the really pale spots on the ewe closest to me. I’m not sure about that darker spot on her back.
The traditional lilacs tend to have a lighter halo around their eyes that is apparent at birth.
I don’t have any answers, but find the whole thing fascinating. I would love to hear from other Jacob breeders!
This is a topic that leaves me wondering too..I have had Jacobs that seemed unquestionably black and faded enough over the years as to NOT be black…is that aging, or are they lilacs? I have had sheep that seemed to definitely be lilacs but was unsure enough to register them as such because I am still confused by the color definitions. The only thing I am sure of is that I love the variations of my sheep. I am looking forward to reading any comments you receive from other Jacob sheep breeders and owners.
There does sound to be obvious separate dilute genes in the breed… I wonder if they are as you say, progressive lightening genes, or if possibly they are a whole other color gene (Like say, and dd blue, vs bb chocolate in dogs). If someone were to be seriously color breeding (breeding out recessive dilutes) that could be helpful in weeding out the genes, as can simply test breeding. That’s what we’ve had to do in rats, in this same situation of “We don’t know what this/these are, but they effect colors”.
Documenting color results is very helpful in determining the causes of diluted colors. When lilac sheep are born, are they born colored other than black, or are they born black, and then change color as they mature?
I’m so happy to see this post. This and fleece types are my two favorite topics on Jacobs. I wish I had some concrete answers for a reply but I do not. I have all the same variations that you do in my flock. Idona, a three year old ewe is an early greying type. Ruby Gem is a true dark black. I have several “blue lilacs” that had a clear eye ring at birth and are grey. And then I have Rosemary that has lightened up to a beautiful silver color. Constance is a medium grey with those darker spots scattered through out her body like you have shown in you pic. And then there is Grace, a lamb, that was questionable at birth and now her fleece color is very grey but feet are black but her face and ears are turning grey as she sheds her facial hair. What a true mystery…
There are definitely many types of “lilac”. Like you, what I consider a true lilac is one that breeds true. JSBA has only two color categories black and lilac and not all sheep fall cleanly into one of those categories.
Lilacs are apparent at birth. I’ve heard breeders say a sheep is “turning lilac” as it ages. Doesn’t happen.
Besides early graying, there is also roaning, ticking, and sunbleaching, which change the color of the fleece.
I’ve heard that the bronzing around the eye like Reno, indicates the sheep carries lilac. That has been true with my breedings, but that’s not a large population.
Kathy – The ones that gradually gray as they get older, in my opinion, are affected by the graying gene and not lilac. I believe the true/traditional lilacs are apparent at birth. I also love the variations, but would also like to know what to call them 🙂
Emily – I would love to talk to you more about this subject. I am really BAD about color genetics 🙂 As I said above, I really think the true lilacs are apparent at birth. This ‘other’ color that I’m not sure what to call, turns a brownish color as they mature – starting at about 6-8 weeks.