With their shaggy white wool and their black furry faces, it’s pretty easy to see how the Valais Blacknose got the status as the world’s cutest sheep breed. Hailing originally from the mountains of Switzerland, the Valais Blacknose have developed a big woolly coat that is perfect for that harsh Alpine weather. But it’s not just their cuddly wool jackets that helps to earn their reputation as cute. They are also very friendly and actually quite sociable with humans, unlike other sheep breeds - which literally run for the hills as soon as anyone approaches!
Originally raised for their wool, the Valais Blacknose tend to inspire quite a devoted following in the farming community, which is as much for the wool that they produce as for their looks and their temperament. It’s not uncommon to spot a Blacknose being treated as one of the family in many rural parts of Switzerland, like a much loved dog. And, in fact, the trend for the blacknose as a pet isn’t limited to the Swiss Alps. In the UK, a shaggy dog story has turned out more like a shaggy sheep story, with one animal lover finding herself adopting a blacknose as part of her menagerie of pets.
Here at Baabuk, we don’t just love the sheep, but we think their wool is particularly special too. Having been reared for hundreds of years in the harsh Alpine conditions, the wool from the Valais Blacknose sheep is particularly tough and durable which, we’ve found, makes it great for shoes.
Although traditionally the wool has been used more for industrial uses such as for felting, or for carpet, we’ve found that wool from the Blacknose sheep makes a shoe that is extra hard wearing. Exactly as you would expect from such a hardy breed.
The Valais Blacknose found their population declining for most of the 20th century, however in recent years, their numbers have begun to grow again. Since the early 1980s, the Blacknose sheep has seen quite a resurgence in its home region, the Valais Canton in Switzerland.
Now, a growing community of farmers and fans of the Valais Blacknose are helping to make the world’s cutest sheep go global. These days, you’ll find Valais Blacknose fan clubs from the USA to New Zealand, as well as the UK and Germany, with shows and contest for the best in breed attracting an audience from around the world.
Back home in Switzerland, the annual Shepherd Festival near Zermatt features a ‘Most Beautiful Sheep’ category. The judges assess around 495 Blacknose sheep on criteria such as the whiteness of the wool and their physical stature, including their horns. The sheep are brought down from the surrounding mountains for the occasion, with the farmers washing and preparing them for the grading. And if you think the event is just for shepherds, you’d be wrong. The festival attracts a large and international audience, not just for the spectacular Alpine surroundings and cultural activities, but also for the ‘world’s cutest sheep breed’. But as we’ve seen, you don’t have to come all the way here, to Switzerland, to meet a Valais Blacknose.
However, if you do come to Switzerland, you’ll find that the Blacknose sheep is one of the icons of the Valais Canton region, which includes Zermatt in it’s boundaries. Wolli, a cartoon Blacknose sheep, is the local mascot, and you’ll spot him at many events all through the year, especially those for children. So if you’re coming hiking or skiing in Switzerland anytime soon, keep an eye open, and hopefully you’ll see one of the world’s cutest sheep!