Lessons from the Haxton's Farm:
Regrowing Horn: Unlike antlers that are shed annually, horns are usually a permanent fixture of a sheep or other horned animal. While it is not common, however, an animal can lose a horn and grow a new one. Daithi and Lorraine Haxton introduced me to one of their withers that had lost a horn, probably in an accident or while butting. The bone core of a horn is living tissue, and full of blood vessels, and the animal bleed profusely from the injury. Lorraine Haxton is a registered surgical nurse, and was able to apply a compression bandage to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. Slowly, the horn is regrowing. The new horn is stunted and will never be as long as the remaining horn. It reminds me of when I lost a toe nail, a new one eventually grew in its place, but it is slightly deformed. This news may be of interest to vegans or others who feel uncomfortable using a shofar from a slaughtered animal.
Sheep Behavior: According to Daithi Haxton, “Anyone who uses the expression, ‘they went docily, like sheep to slaughter,’ has no idea what they are talking about. It is awfully hard to get sheep to do anything. And they can be very aggressive. They have their horns and they know how to use them.”
Horns on Wethers: A “wether” is a neutered male sheep or goat. If a male sheep is being raised for meat, it is left intact because rams grow more rapidly. The Haxtons, however, are raising sheep for wool, so they wether most of their males while they are still lambs. Otherwise, they grow to be very aggressive and you can’t have more than one intact ram in a flock. Horns on wethers grow more slowly than on an intact ram.
Comparison of Ewe and Ram Horn Size: This photo [NOT YET POSTED] compares the horn size of a Blackface sheep ewe and ram of about the same age.
Blood Blister on Horn: One of my shofarot has a dark and flaking blemish on it. Stuart Ballantyne identified it as a blood blister that formed when the sheep was young and hurt his horn – probably butting something. “Have you ever hit your fingernail with a hammer? You got a blood blister under the nail. This is sort of the same thing.” If the blood blister is pronounced enough, it could create a perforation in the sidewall of a shofar, rendering it unfit for use on the Days of Awe unless it can be patched with horn in a way that does not affect the sound of the instrument.