"Mosaic" Ram
born March 2011
at The Lavender Fleece
One of the most delightful reasons
to raise Icelandic sheep has been
the fun of lambing and seeing
what colors and patterns of lambs
are produced. For instance, I've
had a white ewe, bred to a white
ram, produce triplets that were
black, moorit and grey - all
different in pattern than their
parents. In the spring of 2011
though, I was not prepared, and
was totally shocked to see a ram
lamb that exhibited moorit and
black (along with the white
spotting pattern) and additionally,
solid as well as grey pattern!
When he was born I remembered
an article I had read years ago
written by Stefan Adalsteinsson
about an Icelandic ram in Iceland
(1982) that he referenced and
photographed in "The Journal of
Heredity," Volume 75, 1984, p
83-84. At the time I had copied
the photo and it was stored in my
files. I've included the photo of
that ram, named "Skrauti" here,
above right. The main difference
between my ram lamb (now
named Skrauti as well), is that the
Iceland born ram had a white
"stripe" separating the black &
white on his face.
Another difference I found with my ram is that
his moorit has a "grey" gene, which means that
in order for him to have the solid black hooded
pattern on his neck, he also has a grey pattern
infused into the brown on the left side of his
neck. His black coloring is solid to the skin.
He's a strikingly beautiful animal. I emailed his
photo to Phil Sponenberg, who is a Professor
of Pathology and Genetics at Virginia Tech
University. I sent Dr. Sponenberg a photo of
"Skrauti" and this is what he wrote me: "Two
options come to mind, and he might be a third.
One is that he is a chimera or mosaic, meaning
that part of him is genetically different than the
other part. Chimeras are fused embryos,
mosaics are due to mutations within a single
embryo,or another genetic mechanism that
allows for two genetically distinct cell lines.
Relatively common mosaics include calico cats,
and maybe brindle cattle and brindle guinea
pigs. If he's a mosaic, he'll pass it along (I'd
recommend moorits). If he's a chimera he'll just
be interesting and will throw lambs to one cell
line or the other
(I don't know of any that produce lambs from
both cell lines). The second option that I can
think of is he has a moonspot. These are more
common in goats, but I have seen them in sheep
in South Africa. They are more obvious on hair
sheep, and are usually light brown/tan spots on
any background color. Arguing against this is
that clean line down his face -- moonspots are
usually round."
After studying the photo of the ram in Iceland that Dr. Adalsteinsson documented, I
am convinced that Skrauti is also a mosaic pattern. So, to test this theory,I put him in
a breeding group with several moorit ewes for spring 2012 lambs. I am hoping that he
will reproduce himself in at least one lamb -- which would prove he is indeed a
"mosaic" pattern. But with such a small test group to work with, it may take longer
than one season to test out this theory. I also put his dam and sire back together to
see if they will possibly reproduce a lamb like Skrauti, which is probably less likely
than Skrauti himself producing a lamb that is mosaic. His dam is a moorit mouflon (she
carries spotting, shown below) and his sire is a white ram that carries moorit and
spotting. In talking with a friend this summer, while we were watching Skrauti in the
field, I told her that one of the things I always liked about Icelandic sheep was that
you could have all colors and patterns in one breed of sheep. Perhaps with a sheep
like Skrauti, you can have all of them rolled into one sheep!
Skrauti's sire is shown above, a white
ram out of Iceland ram "Noi."