THE BEST things come in small packages – so the saying goes. And that’s most definitely what father and daughter team Jonathan and Beth Davies believe.

The pair, from Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, are among a very small number of people in the UK breeding Ouessant sheep – believed to be the smallest naturally occurring sheep in the world.

Jonathan, aged 44, describes himself as a farmer – born and bred - and was raised on a pig and poultry farm near Romsley in north Worcestershire.

He now works in the property industry but about three years ago wanted to reconnect with his roots by having a few sheep and pigs.

“I wanted something a bit unusual and also saleable and so I was looking on the internet and came across Ouessant sheep so I bought three ewes and a ram,” said Jonathan.

Jonathan and Beth, aged 18, took to the breed like ducks to water and their flock has blossomed since those first days – this year they lambed 22 ewes and they expect to have 45 ewes in lamb next year. Their flock currently stands at 40 sheep.

Unlike with other breeds, lambing time is not too much hard work because the sheep more or less look after themselves. The Ouessants naturally lamb in April and only tend to have one lamb each due to their size - while the newborns are up and running about within minutes of coming into the world.

Ouessant sheep originate from a tiny windswept granite French island off the most westerly point of Brittany and their size – about 20ins for rams and 18ins for a ewe – is attributed to the very poor grazing on the island.

In the early 20th century some of the sheep were taken to mainland France and used by a small number of people to graze their country estates as a novelty breed.

The breed nearly died out but was eventually saved from extinction by a committed group of farmers from northern France who, together with breeders from Holland and Belgium, started a breeding programme.

Due to their original inhospitable environment, Ouessants are hardy little things and don’t require too much attention although, in reality, they really like attention and, unlike most sheep which try to run a mile when they see humans, they race up enthusiastically as soon as their owners arrive.

It’s a bit like having a field full of pets – they all have names courtesy of Beth - as they bleat eagerly while racing across the field towards Beth and Jonathan, who say their ram named Vern, is the worst attention seeker of them all. There's nothing sheepish about these Ouessants.

Beth, who works in Birmingham for investment firm Brewin Dolphin, said: “They are just something different and they are so tame. They are incredibly curious but Vern is a total attention seeker.”

Jonathan says he has rams of other breeds but little Vern, with his curly horns and “attitude”, is the boss.

Beth and Jonathan provided some of their sheep for the Ouessant Sheep Society of Great Britain stand at this year’s Three Counties Show in Malvern and as an unusual attraction on the Brewin Dolphin stand. Show-goers flocked to see the cute sheep and cuddle the lambs.

“They really were the talk of the show,” said Jonathan. There was never less than 10 or 12 people on the stand and sometimes as many as 25.”

Beth, who is the registrar for the Ouessant Sheep Society of Great Britain, added: “We had people coming to the stand at the Three Counties who had been in sheep farming all their lives and they had never heard of them.”

Jonathan and Beth have already been invited to return to the Three Counties Show next year with some of their sheep because they proved so popular with visitors. They are also attending this year’s Nantwich Show on July 29, Tenbury Countryside Show on August 1, and Fillongley Show, Warwickshire on August 9.

Anyone interested in more information about Ouessant sheep can visit can visit visit or ring Jonathan Davies on 07850 595569.

Most people who buy Ouessants have them as hobby sheep/pets. Their size means they can be kept in quite a small space, they are hardy and, apart from lambing spend all their time outside, they have a strong immune system and don’t tend to suffer from many of the usual ovine complaints, according to Jonathan. They have had customers from as far afield as Derbyshire, Berkshire and Kent.

“If you have a good sized lawn you can have a couple of pet Ouessants. They don’t make a mess when it is wet because they are so light and they are naturally cheeky, very curious and affectionate. They have good feet and they do well on any grass,” said Jonathan.

The Ouessants come in black, caramel, white and the much rarer grey colours and the cute newborn lambs weigh less than a kilo. The fleece is about 10 per cent of the animal’s body weight meaning they have the highest wool to weight ratio for any European breed. According to Beth, the wool is very good for hand spinning.

The breed also produces excellent meat which is lean, tasty and has an excellent texture, added Jonathan.

Note: Some of the pictures in the newspaper edition of the story were used courtesy of The Royal Three Counties Show.