Copyright: Norwegian Museum for Agriculture


The Bell Cow

Membership-magazine of the Norwegian Genetic Recourse Committee (Genressursutvalget) No.1/2 - 2000 volume 10.


The Bell Cow (Bjellekua) is an organ for information from the livestock-advisers at the Norwegian Museum for Agriculture (NMA), who also function as secretariat for the Norwegian Genetic Recourse Committee, for all owners of old livestock breeds. The Bell Cow is being sent for free to everyone which NMA has registered as owners and other interested who ask to receive The Bell Cow. The Bell Cow is going to be publicized twice a year. For the registered owners it is possible to send inn letters or put in free advertisements for selling/buying old breeds of livestock.  


If you have any questions contact the editors: Bine Melby and Sandrup Nordvoll

Norwegian Museum of Agriculture  
P.O. 5104, 1432 Ås  
Phone: 6494 9997  
Fax: 6494 9996



 From The Bell Cow no. 1 and 2, we present the article:

THE Old SpÆl sheep


In The Bell Cow no. 1/99 there was a request for animals of older breeds of spæl sheep. There was also an advertisement for older types of spæl sheep in the magazine Sheep and Goat (Sau og Geit) no. 3/99. This has resulted in information on approximately 30 herds, whereupon 14 were of interest for closer evaluation. NMA has, during the spring of 2000, visited some of these. On the basis of the new herds, which has been mapped is it necessary to revise the work of the Norwegian Genetic Recourse Committee on Old Spæl Sheep.

So far 150 animals from 6 herds in South-Trøndelag, of the type which was common 40-60 years ago and which does not seem to have been influenced by sheep imported from Iceland around 1960, have been evaluated. The type resembles well the descriptions of how the Old Spæl Sheep used to look like.

So far we have chosen to use the description “the type of the 60s” on these animals and they are characterized, according to old definitions of spælsheep, like this: A relatively short-legged, compact sheep with muscular body and thighs. The animals have a short tail (the spæl) without wool-hair, which is brood by the root and narrowing downwards to the tip, like a triangle. The wool can easily be divided in bottom-wool and covering-wool, and the covering wool is long and shiny with fine fibers. The animals have a crown of wool on the head, and small ears situated relatively high. There is big variation in the colors and in appearance of the horns.

It must be documented well that the animal-material is not influenced by, or very little influenced by modern breeding and imported Icelandic sheep-material from the 1960s or later. The Feral Sheep should as well, not be crossed in.


The purpose with the Old Spæl Sheep is to:


The Norwegian Genetic Recourse Committee have decided to go on working with this breed in the following way: 


New system of coding older types of sheep in the Sheep Recording System

It is very important to mange a systematic registration of data for the scarcest population of sheep and to be able to use this as a tool to have control over and be able to manage the animals equivalent to what is done on cattle.

Due to both the practical part and the capacity it is a goal for the Norwegian Genetic Recourse Committee to do this in the already existing systems for registration of sheep. On this background the Norwegian Genetic Recourse Committee have had meetings with the Sheep Recording System to start cooperation.

Five new codes are being established in the Sheep Recording System:

Norwegian Feral sheep (Gammelnorsk sau)
Old Spælsheep (Gammeltypisk spælsau)  
Grey Trønder Sheep (Grå Trøndersau)  
Fuglestad Sheep (Fuglestadsauen)  
Blæse Sheep (Blæsesau)

The following data will be obligatory to registrate:

The animal’s identity and extraction  
Number of lambs  
The autumn body weight of the lambs

 The Sheep Recording System does not, at this point of time, have the possibility to calculate the degree of inbreeding. In the short term, it is possible to do this via external inbreeding-programs at the Department of Animal Husbandry at the Agricultural University of Norway. One of the consultants at the Norwegian museum of Agriculture will be appointed as an adviser in the Sheep Recording System, so that owners of small populations can get help with the registration, especially in the beginning. In the long term, the goal is that registration and follow-up will be conducted by the local advisers at the Sheep Recording System.

We plan to start the registration of all the animals from the qualified herds starting during the mating period of the coming autumn. The sheep owner’s registered at the NMA will receive more detailed information about this. Please, do contact us if you know of animals/herds, which the NMA have not been in contact with so far.


Artificial insemination on sheep – following up project summer/autumn 2000.

  In 1999, a project to secure semen from Grey Trønder Sheep and Old Spæl Sheep was initiated, and we are following up by bringing in more rams this year. The goal is to collect semen from a total of 10 rams from each breed. The objective is both to secure semen for long term storing, and to make breeding material accessible to the few people who have animals of these breeds. Restrictions on moving animals make it more difficult to get breeders for these few groups.

So far we have taken in 4 rams of Grey Trønder Sheep, of which 3 gave semen for storing. The project will go on this autumn by bringing in new rams. NMA will in the beginning focus on bringing in rams from the herds we already have been in contact with.


The Norwegian Sheep and Goat Breeders Association (Norsk sau- og geitalslag, Nsg) manages the semen from these two breeds together with NMA. Nsg are these days sending out a request to all its members about insemination of ewes this autumn, where all who are interested have to apply on using a special form before 05.08.00. The application for using semen from Grey Trøndersheep and Old Spæl Sheep should be sent directly to NLM before the same date. The semen from these breeds will for the time being prioritized for the herds we have been in contact with and registrated as Grey Trønder Sheep and Old Spæl Sheep.