Showing Off Our County Flair
Excuse me, Judge. They're called Hog Island, not Highland Sheep.
Champions can come from unexpected places—and sometimes, just sometimes, they get recognition for challenging the norm.
So much could be said of our blue ribbon-flaunting Hog Island Sheep: Dorcas, a social butterfly who doubles as a diva in the spotlight; Fedora, a stunning white-faced ewe with a shy streak and her bold half-sister Flora; ingénue lamb Nikki and our youngest addition to herd, Harrison, whose tenure as our resident ram has already outlasted the 32-day presidency of his namesake.
Less than fifty years ago, the ancestors of this flock would have been living with limited human contact, digging for fresh water and weathering hurricanes in the marshlands of Virginia’s Hog Island as they had for three centuries.
Humans abandoned the barrier island in 1933, but life didn’t change much at all for the sheep left behind. Unlike most contemporary wool breeds, both rams and ewes retained horns from the Old Country and oily, weather-resistant fleeces capable of shedding each spring.
These wooly islanders were so adapted to their wind-swept home that even after the Nature Conservancy officially removed all sheep to the mainland in 1973, four years later, the Coast Guard discovered a growing flock of survivors on Hog Island.
In other words, our sheep are made for the swamp, not the show ring. Especially when most county fair shows are geared toward appraising dinner table-bound breeds for the weekend’s auction market.
That didn’t stop Farmer Alison Bode and the Accokeek Team from showing up and showing out at the Charles County Fair on September 17.
Each competition requires sheep and their handlers to sashay around the show ring before each contender stands with head high, legs planted before the judge.
The first rounds pit sheep of the same age, sex, and breed type against each other: our Accokeek flock were the sole competitors in the “Other Recognized Breed” category. Winners of these rounds then vie against other victors before advancing to “Best-in-Show" type competitions against both meat and wool sheep breeds. Each blue ribbon earned brings home $20.
Our Hog Islanders cut a striking image as the only horned sheep in the building and one of only three wool herds—the largest made up of Finn Sheep from Farmer Alison’s Three Oaks Farm.
Dozens upon dozens of meat sheep with tightly-shorn fleeces and rather indistinguishable faces walked the gauntlet, one eventually winning Grand Champion, but not before the Accokeek Foundation blazed through with accolades including 1st Place Ewe Lamb, 1st Place Ram Lamb, 1st Place Yearling Ewe, 1st Place Flock, Champion Ram Lamb, Champion, and Reserve Champion Ewe. That’s just to name a few.
Yes, we’re looking at you, Harrison, and you, Dorcas, you Champion Ewe. Maybe you were cut out for this after all.
But, it never hurts when you’re the only one in the arena.