© Kathy Baker    Oct 30 2005

Rooing is the process of removing the fleece from the sheep by hand plucking the wool.  Many Shetland sheep retain a complete or partial tendency to shed the current year’s fleece growth in late spring or early summer. At the point where the fibre diameter becomes thinner and weaker, the fleece breaks quite easily.  It does not hurt the sheep when the weakened fibres are plucked or rooed by hand.

Breeders of Shetlands will notice that certain sheep and sometimes certain family lines have a greater tendency to shed than others.   At one end of the spectrum there are Shetlands that shed their fleece so readily that it will be lost to the pasture and bird nests unless the shepherd quickly and roos or clips the sheep as soon as signs of shedding  (loose tufts of wool poking out of the fleece) appear. 

Others will partially shed, leaving portions of the fleece that must be removed by clipping.  If you wait, those parts of the fleece may shed over a period of weeks. At the other end of the continuum, some Shetlands show no tendency to shed at all and must be hand clipped or sheared.

An advantage to rooing a fleece is that the previous year’s growth is removed at exactly the right point leaving the next year’s growth rising cleanly on the sheep.  Also there is no loss in staple length or creation of short fibres as can happen when the sheep is sheared above or below the rising new fleece.   See also RISE.

I saw Shetland sheep at a show on the Shetland Islands in August 2003 on a tour organised by Rena Douglas, a Shetland breeder in Scotland. Some had been sheared and others were rooed.  An owner of one of the rooed sheep explained that the fleece on the sheep would show better as rooing leaves a more natural looking, softly tipped new fleece with optimal staple length rather than the smooth, blunt cuts after electric shearing.


Characteristics of new fleece after rooing previous fleece. This is the ram being rooed in Video Clip # 2
The dark moorit yearling  in behind was shorn at the same time.


I did visit one very large farm on that Shetland Islands tour where rooing was still the main method of removing the fleeces.  The breeder showed me her hands, cut and calloused between the fingers, evidence of how difficult a job of that magnitude was.. She explained that with a sheep that rooed easily, if you inserted your spread fingers into the fleece you could literally lift the fleece up and off the sheep.  If you worked progressively along the sheep, you would end up with an intact fleece.

With my large flock, I  must say that I welcome the skill and speed of the shearer each year but was still interested in trying my hand at rooing. Last year, my shearer noticed that one particular ram was ripe for rooing so I took him out of the shearing line-up.  I also had one ram that had shed a portion of his fleece already so he looked like a good candidate for a rooing trial as well.  I did a quick bit of halter training with the two mature rams one morning.  Linda Wendelboe came over to my farm and we took turns trying our hand at rooing.  We found that some parts of the fleece rooed more easily than others.  Where the weakness in the fleece was not as pronounced, it helped to try not to pull too much fleece at one time.  However, there were some places  on the hip, neck and shoulder where the fleece was quite firmly attached and it was necessary to use the hand shears to clip the fleece.  Our goal was to remove the fleece intact if possible.

Here is a series of pictures I took of the rooing process.  This ram is being rooed in Video Clip # 1.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the VIDEO CLIPS.


     Loose tufts of wool indicating the fleece is ready to be rooed.
     Fleece along back is held by only a few fibres and is easily rooed. 
     Fleece on lower leg is rooed easily.  Short leg and belly bits were discarded.
     Continuing to roo the fleece up the flank and toward the tail end.
   Gather up the fleece in your arms while continuing to roo the hip and rear.
     Almost finished! Tugging the last bit of fleece from the top of the tail.
     Intact, rooed fleece on the fleece table for skirting and assessment. 


Here are links to 2  video clips of the rooing trial. The video files are quite large.   It will take 5-30 minutes to download them, depending on your connection speed. If you need a video viewer consider the Free QuickTime Download from Apple.

ROOING VIDEO CLIP # 1                  ROOING VIDEO CLIP # 2  



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