I came across yet another mystery in this fall of 2012, though I shouldn’t be surprised as the Icelandic sheep breed seems full of them. What makes it even more mysterious is that it happened in two sheep, from two different states, two different breeders, two different lines… it can be see in both Isadore and April, my lovely moorit solid ewes that I purchased in 2012. What this mystery that I refer to is the nature of the color of these two upon being shorn in October of 2012; for when the wool came off, underneath that beautiful, rich moorit tog was a blanket of light cream colored thel, similar in color to that of a badgerface. In other words, these two gals looked very much like they had the grey gene, with light thel and dark tog, and dark faces and legs. However, up until being shorn, neither looked anything other than solid, though Isadore did show some heavy silvering in her tog.
So the questions are:
1. Are these two actually carrying a grey gene that is relatively weak in expression and rather slow to show itself? (April has a grey mother, and Isadore has a grey father, so it is fully possibly for each to inherit a grey gene.) Isadore was born in the spring of 2011, April the spring of 2012. April shows no signs of the grey gene before shearing, and neither did Isadore at April’s age. (You can see Isadore’s lamb photo at her breeder’s Facebook page.) Isadore later silvered heavily in the tog, especially over her shoulders, which can be seen easily in the picture of her.
2. Is it heavy silvering that is expressing primarily in the thel? April’s father appeared to express silvering in the picture I’ve seen of him, and there is very heavy silvering in Isadore’s mother’s wool. I do not know if Isadore’s mother, Faye, had light colored thel or not, but her tog is almost completely white, forming a silvering blanket over her back. You can see a picture of Faye on her breeder’s Facebook page. (She looks much like my Jona.) The biggest problem with the silvering theory is that in other cases I’ve seen, silvering primarily just affects the tog, not the thel. The thel is distinctly lighter in both Isadore and April. Another problem with the silvering idea is that silvering usually leaves the neck ruff along; as in, it stays dark around the cheeks. (See the pictures of Jona.) In grey pattern sheep, the neck ruff is one of the first places to show light color, which extends onto the cheeks. (See the picture of Freya.)
3. Is it just another variation of moorit solid? I know there is a range of hues of moorit, though usually they express fairly equally in both the tog and the thel; the tog in this case is a deep moorit, with cream colored thel. That is what makes this strange if these two gals are just solid.
I hope to get more clues as these gals get bred in the future. Isadore has been bred to Ferdinand for 2013 lambs, which means they will all get a grey gene from the father. If I see flashing, then that likely means they also got a grey gene from the mother, and are homozygous grey. If not, I wait for future breedings to see what happens. April is not being bred this year, but one more year beyond this and I will have lambs from her. I will update this page as I have new information.