About Hog Island Sheep
About 200 years ago, a flock of sheep was established on Hog
Island, one of Virginia's barrier islands located off its Eastern Shore. The
sheep were already native to the area and are believed to have had a
substantial amount of Merino blood in them. There were occasional subsequent
introductions to the population, the last being in 1953, when a Hampshire ram
was taken to the island. In 1974, the island was sold to The Nature
Conservancy, which decided to remove all the sheep and cattle.
Gunston Hall Plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia,
eventually became the owner of the greater number of these sheep and exhibited
them as part of their replication of 18th century plantation life. Hog Island
sheep evolved and survived for over 200 years in an extremely harsh environment
on a limited diet and no medical attention. It is estimated that there are
approximately 200 Hog Island breeding ewes, mostly in Virginia.