What the heck’s a Herdy?

Hello! Glad you asked!

Two Herdwick hoggs or hoggets, at least a year old and before their first shearing.

Herdies, better known as Herdwick Sheep are the native breed of the Lake District and West Cumbria.  Their name is said to derive from the ancient Norse word herdvyck, meaning sheep pasture, and it is speculated that the ancestors of today’s Herdwick flocks were brought over during 10th and 11th century Viking invaders.

What historians do know is that 12th century documents highlight the importance of the breed to the area and its people.

Purebred Herdies are born black and are just as bouncy and cute as any lambs can be.
Like many of us, Herdies go through an awkward stage, during which their heads and legs turn white and their fleece a warm dark brown.

At a year old they are called hoggs or hoggets, and their distinctive ‘friendly’ face really glows against their dark wool.  They are the unofficial mascots of the beautiful Lake District.

Somehow they know we love them; they’ll even pose for the camera.

After their first shearing, their fleece is slatey-grey and it lightens as they age.  (Kind of like – ahem – my hair… )

Windswept ewe by Crummock Water

I think they are lovely at all stages of Herdiness.  They make me smile with their docile faces and stubborn, tough natures. I love that they wear their age and experience for all to see.

This mature ewe in Wasdale was quiet friendly.

Herdwick wool is coarse and tough, and was once much valued for the making of carpets.  Modern fibres put paid to that, and in recent times the wool has been so low in value that farmers sometimes were forced to burn countless unsold fleeces.  Times are again changing.  New uses for strong Herdwick wool are being thought up by creative people who love the breed and value their fleece. (More on this in future posts!)

Lovely Herdwick Tup (breeding male) catching 40 winks at Woolfest 2016 in Cockermouth.

Why did I choose Herdy Girl as my moniker?

Herdies are one of the few breeds that heft or heaf.  Becoming hefted means that each generation is taught a sense of belonging to a particular home in the fells.  Herdies are able to return to their hefted home even after being moved about during lambing, shearing or flood.

As a military brat who never truly felt a sense of home in any one place, I greatly admire this ability.  As a person of faith, I’ve felt a yearning toward something better, somewhere more. So, I’m working at becoming hefted to good things – beauty (so easy to find in the Lake District), gratitude, kindness, pure unadulterated laughter, attaining wisdom and knowledge, nurturing true relationships… You know, the good stuff.

Good Stuff. Like sitting in a field of wildflowers and soaking up birdsong.

Also, my hair is curly and has grey speed-stripes, and my Taller Half says I’m cute.  Charming Herdwick sheep are cute.  Herdy Girl.  I’ll go with that!


Herdy Girl

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