The Lost Flock is the story of the remarkable and rare little horned sheep, known as Orkney Boreray, and the wool-obsessed woman who moved to one of Scotland's wildest islands to save them.
It was Jane Cooper's passion for knitting that led her to discover the world of rare-breed sheep and their wool. Through this, Jane uncovered the 'Orkney Borerary' – a unique group within the UK's rarest breed of sheep, the Boreray, and one of the few surviving examples of primitive sheep in northern Europe. As her knowledge of this rarest of heritage breeds grew, she took the bold step to uproot her quiet suburban life in Newcastle and relocate to Orkney, embarking on a new adventure and life as farmer and shepherd. Jane was astonished to find that she was the sole custodian of this lost flock in the world, and so she began investigating their mysterious and ancient history, tracking down the origins of the Boreray breed and its significance to Scotland's natural heritage.
From Viking times to Highland crofts and nefarious research experiments in Edinburgh, this is a so-far untold real-life detective story. It is also the story of one woman's relentless determination to ensure a future for her beloved sheep, and in doing so revealing their deep connection to the Scottish landscape. An unforgettable story of a heritage breed and the importance of its existence.
Jane Cooper grew up in North Warwickshire and learned to knit when she was very young. In 2010, Jane met the late Sue Blacker of the Natural Fibre Company, who wanted to get British Wool into the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, so Woolsack (woolsack.org.uk) was born, which they ran together. In 2013 Jane and her husband Paul moved to Orkney and got their first Boreray sheep and in 2017, Jane discovered that she was the custodian of the last remnants of the 'Lost Flock' of Boreray sheep. To secure the long-term future of the Orkney Boreray, Jane established flocks with more (younger!) Orkney crofters and farmers, to develop products and markets and make them a profitable enterprise for everyone involved. In September 2021 Orkney Boreray mutton became Scotland's second Slow Food International Presidium. There are now eight flocks of Boreray sheep in Orkney.
"'A windswept love letter to Scotland's heritage sheep and to the Orkney farming community too. Jane Cooper gives a hands-on account of her quest to save a 'lost flock' of primitive sheep – of historic notability."
– Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment
"Rare-breed sheep, Scotland's most dramatic landscapes and a woman on a mission. All the perfect ingredients for an ovine true-life adventure."
– Sally Coulthard, author of A Short History of the World According to Sheep
"A delightful tale about one woman's passionate commitment to save a unique breed of sheep. Small, with hairy neck ruffs of black and tan, her chosen wards are not just any sheep; obscure and ignored by the commercial sheep farming community, Jane's flock in Orkney were in danger of dying out. The story of their enchanting history, promotion and salvation is a tribute to how individual dedication can avert the very worst of outcomes."
– Derek Gow, author of Bringing Back the Beaver
"Starting with the history of the Boreray, one of our rarest sheep breeds, The Lost Flock tells the fascinating and rather romantic story of the so-called Lost Flock, a group within the breed that got left behind when the rest were added to the official register. An extremely useful and very well-written addition to the library of books on our native livestock breeds."
– Christopher Price, CEO of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust
"Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Jane Cooper is deeply committed to her flock of Borerays. Cooper proves to be the ultimate ovine detective, solving the three-thousand-year mystery of the Lost Flock while simultaneously securing the future of smallhold farming in Orkney. She is a treasure to the industry and a hero to the breed."
– Linda Cortright, founder of Wild Fibers magazine and author of Twisted Tales
"Jane Cooper combines intelligence, heart and passion to create a life of integrity not only for herself but for one of the rarest breeds of sheep on the planet – and, ultimately, to build a community that promotes the well-being of all its members, two-foot and four-foot, and of the earth. Her trials and triumphs offer a stellar example for others to follow in their own ways. Bravo!"
– Deborah Robson, coauthor of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook
"I fell in love with this craft, these sheep, their islands, this determined woman and her story: how a knitter and spinner of wool became a shepherd and changed the fortunes of a rare and ancient breed of sheep; how, if you are bold and passionate enough to pursue, pull and 'roo' the threads of a craft, it will take you to the wildest heart of things."
– Nicola Chester, author of On Gallows Down
"The Lost Flock is a hugely readable ode to obsession and how one woman's knitting project led her to fall in love with the rarest of rare breeds and follow her passion to the ends of the earth. Part history lesson, part life lesson, Jane Cooper extols the virtues of preindustrial farming and cultivating a deeper connection with food, land and biosphere. The lost flock shows the power of one committed individual to enact positive change and save part of our shared natural heritage from extinction."
– Ross Barnett, author of The Missing Lynx
"There's so much interesting historical information threaded through Jane Cooper's book about her adventures to preserve the Lost Flock of Boreray."
– Suzanna Crampton, author of Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat