Cladore - meaning shore dweller as-Gaeilge (cladoir) - was a small sheep indigenous to south Connemara. They were found around Carraroe Ros a’ Mhíl and Carna.
The breed was in fact so localised that they wouldn’t be found in North Connemara by the Killary fjord, just forty kilometres away.
They were a white-wool, white-faced sheep that would survive by eating seaweed or whatever was available to them as the land in Connemara is very rugged and bare. They would have been seen in this area up until about fifty years ago.
Speaking to That's Farming, Seán Cadden - who will begin the task of testing sheep in the area for Cladore DNA - said: “It was a small, hornless sheep that didn’t have good confirmation; however, they were hardy,”
Tom Keane - from Rosehill in Westport - has been credited with doing the most work into researching this breed of sheep for the past twenty years.
Together with Tom, they will be looking to find cross-breeds that have about twenty-five or thirty per cent Cladore DNA and they will mate them together in the hope of invigorating the breed once again.
They have identified more than one hundred sheep from three flocks in Connemara and have the approval to test ninety-six sheep.
“They were never a very extensive breed; they were always at risk of becoming extinct,” said Seán. This was mainly due to the fact that there were more incentives to breed black-faced sheep or cheviots.
Speaking of the significance of the upcoming Irish Rare Breeds Conference, Seán said, “It’s very important that the public know more about them, as it would make it somewhat easier to re-establish the breed.”
“They might have something valuable, like having a higher resistance to foot rot and if they’re gone, all their benefits will go with them,” he added.
The Cladore is known as what’s called “cottage sheep” and their wool would have been used for knitting, spinning and weaving. The spinners today don’t appear to have sourced any Claddore wool and Seán hopes to be able to supply them with a few fleeces after this summer.
For information on the conference, see here.