Documented as far back as the fifteenth century, the Valais Blacknose sheep is a domesticated sheep originating from Switzerland’s mountainous Valais region.
The sheep, with their unmistakable black faces, ears, hocks and feet, spirally horns and coarse coat resemble more of a stuffed toy than a live animal. And aside from being raised for meat and wool, these little creatures can make equally great pets.
The breed has a hardy reputation and is well suited to high-altitude homelands. However, although their breed started in the Middle Ages, they were only officially recognised as a breed in 1962. Their wool, which is best suited for carpets, felting and bedding, attracted interest from the international markets in the early 2000s. Since then, breeding programs were established and in 2016, the first American breeding program brought with it its first generation of lambs in 2018.
The sheep breed, which is more akin to a Jim Henson Muppet to look at, is adorable. Their sweet face and well-hidden eyes under large mops of wool match their temperament. According to New Zealand breeders Andrew and Leigh-Anne Peake, the Valais Blacknose sheep are more like dogs, following people around—even those unknown to them—for attention.
The sheep’s cute factor includes being “typically placid and docile,” says one American breeder. “They’re almost dog-like.”
And dog-like they are, even in size. The larger males of the breed will stand around 3 feet at the withers, with most of the sheep being smaller. Weighing in at around 275 pounds for a male or 198 pounds for females makes them stout yet little.
But as much as they’re delightful little companions, United Kingdom breeder Chartley’s Valais Blacknose warns of their upkeep. The sheep require shearing twice a year to maintain good, healthy coats and because the sheep’s natural habitat is that of a dry, high-altitude, the cuddly creatures are prone to foot troubles where climates are more humid. The sheep, like all sheep, are social creatures, too, meaning they require their herds for happiness and plenty of room to graze.
Both sexes have horns, so if you’re looking for the ideal snuggle-bunny as a pet, you’ll need to be cautious.
Although not an ideal house or backyard pet, if you’re fortunate to have some acreage, the Valais Blacknose sheep is certainly worth considering.