Whispering Pines Canterbury is on most counts, our top ram. He’s great in some areas and very good in others. He is very refined, but I'd like to see more width in his front and back than what he has. This is somewhat subjective, but I also think this tends to be correlated with bone structure. The more refined type tend to be this way. You have to take the good with the bad in other words. I don't believe you can have good width on a refined ram. I haven't seen it anyway. The width of the pin bones largely dictates how wide apart the legs are. Fine boned Shetlands have pin bones that aren't that far apart relative to heavier boned animals. I reckon that tells a breeder when they are getting too refined or too heavy on the bone.
Canterbury is Mioget, which isn’t my favorite color, but it’s in the top three.
His head is also very nice for a polled ram and his tail is spot on. That leaves fleece, which is where he really stands apart from almost all North American Shetlands. He’s even finer than his father, Winter Sky Khan, who is also exceptionally fine. But I prefer Canterbury in every category. I just sent in samples for his third fleece and they confirmed what I thought about it “on the hoof” so to speak. I don’t know what to expect in the spring when I check all of our fleeces, but the early indications are quite good. His average is 20.0 microns first of all. I have said repeatedly that the average is just one part of the fleece equation, but that’s pretty rare for a three-year old Shetland fleece. Do I think it will hold there for his spring test? Maybe or maybe not, but it will almost certainly be less than 21.0.
The other thing I like about his fleece is its consistency from front to back. He doesn’t fall off in the britch much. He is right there with Rosewood in that regard, although I have never tested him for that like I did Rosewood.
Other noteworthy numbers are his standard deviation, which measures the variation from the top of the fiber to the tip. Canterbury’s standard deviation is 3.4. His coefficient of variation is 17%, which is about as good as I can expect on a fleece this fine. Some fine fleece Shetlands will have really low averages, but the standard deviations can't quite keep up. Khan was like that as was his father Black Forrest. Canterbury got his low SD from his mother and his fineness from both parents. I would say he is another example of how you can get offspring that is better than both parents through careful breeding. But you need parents that are exceptional in several areas. His are. I wish it always worked out this well, but it typically does not.
Overall, I like him a great deal. He will get a fairly large group of ewes this year since we kept 10 of his ewe lambs and five ram lambs from this spring. That is going to create problems for me in a year or two when all of our sheep are related to him, but you have to keep the best sheep and stay true to your rating system. If it's working, stay with it until forced to change. My goal is to get offspring out of him that are so good, I have no ram good enough to put them with. Canterbury is so good, he's forcing me to get better at this. I like that. A longtime breeder once told me that the fine fleece Shetland is a myth. Not so. They can be restored, but it takes a lot of effort and planning to do it. I think he is an example of it, and hopefully we can make more like him. Even with all of my planning and analysis, we've only managed to get one other Shetland like him. As Vince Lombardi said, however, when you strive for perfection, you will hit excellence. Hopefully, I am up to the challenge. Hopefully, a few of his sons will live up to his legacy. Those will be some big hooves to fill though. And it won't help on his daughters.
Canterbury received the following ewes:
Florence (Jane Eyre's mother). Hey, it could happen again.
Turin (also had an exceptional Canterbury son)
Siena (also had an exceptional Canterbury son)
Genoa (also had an exceptional Canterbury son. I see a pattern here, which is why I am repeating these breedings)
Vogue (had nice lambs and I just think there's more in there)
Caramel Mocha (same with this one)
Kahlua (ditto here. This will be one I am anticipating greatly, much like when Secretariat's mother gave birth to him)
Sherrie (an exceptional Blue Sapphire daughter we have been waiting to use with this ram)
Sarah (spotted. Canterbury carries spots. This is a Stonehenge daughter that is very good, but that I think can be improved with this combination of genetics)
99 (same here)
Rosanna (same with this Stonehenge daughter, but I have a hunch about this one. Her lambs with this breeding will be exceptional or average, I think. She's a bit of a wild card, but I like her a great deal)
Treviso (I don't have the words to describe my expectations with this combination)
I also added Reawick, Pamela, and Kelly Kelly to his group as a cleanup. They belonged here all along, but I really want lambs out of Mr. Darcy.
There you have it. We can't set the table any better than this. Now my only job until lambing is to feed them properly. I expect big things, but I am always surprised that all of the ewes don't have lambs that are a cut above their mothers. With this group, that's simply not possible. If all of the lambs are as good as their mothers, I'll not be happy. That won't move us forward, and it will complicate the sales list. The reality is, however, that some of these ewes will be for sale, so we better have some lambs that can fill the void. I feel good about those odds. It has taken us many years to get to the point where I can say that.
I'll close with a sampling of fleece samples from Canterbury from the last two years, then we'll dream of lambs all winter with fleeces like this.