By Charles Wade-Palmer
Is this the fastest sheep in the world with 200 wins under his woollen belt?
Muscular Black Jack might be ten-years-old but shear speed and determination to be the first over the finish line has meant he is still the fastest baa none – competing in daily SHEEP RACES.
Potentially the fastest sheep in the world, 200 time champion Black Jack has provided spectators of Britain’s oldest sheep race at Hoo Farm, in Telford, Shropshire with sheep thrills for years.
Will Dorrell, a partner at Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom said: “Black Jack is an incredibly fast sheep, he’s very quick due to his body shape. He’s quite muscular but streamline so a bit of a sheep version of Usain Bolt.
“Certain breeds are naturally slighter built and faster runners than others. However, it’s not always about speed, certain sheep will employ different tactics just like horses.
“Some like to sit at the front and hold the field up, others like to break early and some will wait until the final turn before letting loose.”
A Castlemilk Moorit crossed with a Suffolk may be an unlikely sports star but Black Jack’s record at the Hoo Farm furlong race, which started in 1991, speaks for itself.
The speed demon may have finished in first place at the farm near Telford around 200 times but this half term he has shown no desire to hang up his hooves to hit the hay.
Family run Hoo Farm has drawn in crowds for its hilariously unique sheepracing on weekends and during school holidays in rural Shropshire since 1991.
Will said: “We train our sheep purely on positive reinforcement. As any shepherd will know, sheep will happily go to wherever there is food, we simply channel that desire down a racecourse.
“We don’t force any of our sheep to run and we’ve had some refuse to start. But generally speaking, we work this out at the training stage and those that aren’t interested or don’t enjoy the race are put with our other sheep in the field.
“The sheep are competitive, you can see the difference in them racing when they’ve got jockeys and the tannoy is going and the crowds are there compared to a training run.
“We aren’t the only place to sheep race any longer but I genuinely believe ours is the best. People have this understandable view of sheep being quite dim and boring animals but this really challenges that assertion.”
The one furlong race or 220 yards includes several 18 inch high jumps for sheep to hurdle over although Will insists they are more than capable of clearing two feet or higher.
“We do have a tote running as well where you can buy a badge with your sheep‘s number – if the sheep wins you swap it for a rosette.
“But most importantly, you must cheer, the sheep know their names and will run far better if you do.”