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Black sheep are treasures to exotic-animals collector

SHARE Black sheep are treasures to exotic-animals collector

The black sheep in the Richard Davis family are on the mounds of fill dirt on the east side of the freeway.

And under the old semi-tractor trailer.And grazing beneath the old trees by the fence, or resting in the shade of the billboards.

The miniature, thickly wooled creatures appear, at first glance, to be nothing more than dark balls of fluff moving on legs about the property on Sandhill Road.

In actuality, they're unique sheep from Wales originally brought to America by a British nobleman who introduced them to the United States by way of his New York estate.

"There's a kind of a fad going around right now in miniature animals," said Davis, a local collector of exotic animals. He says Black Welsh Mountain Sheep are one of 25-30 different types that are currently popular.

Davis has nine of the tiny sheep: a ram, four ewes and several babies, including a set of twins.

The tallest stands between 18 and 20 inches high. That's eight to 10 inches shorter than the average sheep. The babies weigh only about two pounds at birth.

They have abundant black kinky wool, which reportedly is highly prized among spinners.

"They're quite well known for their wool. The Welsh have spent 400 years building up the herds for a specific quality of wool," Davis said. "I've had a couple of spinners call me and who are planning to come in and shear them. They seem to know why it's valuable."

He admires their wool but likes the little sheep mostly because they're "really pleasant little animals."

He's hoping to build up a small herd from his sheep but the ewes keep bearing male babies, he said, and his ewes aren't getting any younger.

"I wouldn't mind having a herd of them but I'm beginning to wonder if it'll happen," he said.

Davis has had the sheep in the Orem location for about 18 months. He bought them six years ago.

He says the Utah climate seems to suit them well as it's similar to what the sheep are used to in Wales.

Although 30 years have passed since the original Black Welsh Mountain Sheep were brought to America, no one else has been allowed to bring in any more.

After a decade, celebrities like Kenny Rogers were allowed to buy some. After another 10 years, private collectors, "exotic animal lovers like myself," started to get the chance to own a few, Davis said.

"I kind of waited until they got a little less expensive. Originally, I had the only one in Utah. Now I think there are probably 15-20 in the state."

The Welsh sheep are only a part of Davis' rare animal collection. He's somewhat famous in the Utah County area for his Pere David deer, his musk ox, llamas and emus.

On the west side of the freeway, further north, he has sheep that are larger than most, a crossbreed between the Mongolian Argali, the Mouflon and the Desert Big Horn.

"I'm what you would call an animal investor," he said.