October 30, 2009

Beautiful Sheep

Sheep portraits by fashion photographer Paul Farnham, from the beautiful endpapers of Beautiful Sheep.

Had an "I miss my sheep, poor me" moment in the local Barnes & Noble and wound up driving home with a copy of this lovely book.

Not that you actually need a book to learn a bit about different types of sheep — there are websites like this one with photos and info on gazillions of different breeds of sheep. Beautiful Sheep takes a less encyclopedic approach, and I like the results.

To begin with, the book restricts itself to several dozen sheep breeds of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland: the breeds a North American with border collies might find most interesting. The photographs are straightforward and respectful — fans of the William Wegman, dress-'em-as-people approach should give this book a miss. Is it just me, or do William Wegman's dogs always look wretchedly unhappy? Did you ever see a Wegman Weimaraner that didn't have its tail tucked? Me neither. And don't tell me looking miserable is just a Weimaraner thing. It isn't.

Topic. Excellent photos in Beautiful Sheep, and a info page for each breed. The breed write-ups are the work of Kathryn Dun, a veterinarian and Honorary Secretary for the Sheep Veterinary Society. She knows a mule from a terminal sire, in other words. According to the author blurb: "Kathryn helps show her family's North Country Cheviots and Scotch Mules at numerous events, including the Royal Highland Show." Cheviots! [Strangely, there is no studio portrait of a Cheviot in this book. I can't imagine why.]

Fascinating to look at the photo of a young Suffolk ram [incorrectly labeled a yearling ewe, to what I hope is the proof-reader's eternal shame] and compare it to the photo of an American show Suffolk in the collection of black and white photos at the back of the book.

Is Beautiful Sheep worth $13.57? [Or the 20 bucks I paid at Buy N Large?] I think so: it's attractive, informative, and a great book to keep handy when you're choosing stock for a dream farm... a little place in Central California with Bluefaced Leicesters and a Hill Radnor and a Welsh Mountain Badger Face and a Lincoln Longwool and many, many Cheviots...

Beautiful Sheep: Portraits of Champion Breeds, by Kathryn Dun, with photography by Paul Farnham.

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