The Countryside Museum
Cumbria and Sheep :: Counting Sheep :: Marking sheep :: Woolmarks and Horn burns :: Gathering and Clipping :: Selling the clip :: Value of Wool

Counting methods

Traditional methods of counting sheep are known from many of the Lakeland dales, though none seem to still be in actual use. Garnett in 1910 said even then that the method was almost obsolete and as for the names of the numbers, "but few of the farmers remember them". "Yan" is still used for "one", but the others were only known as curiosities.

Traditionally the shepherd counts to twenty, then he marks a stone or stick with a "score" and starts again. The final total is given as so many score of sheep. The method seems to be common to old Cymric or Celtic areas although the words themselves have taken slightly different forms over the years.


Keswick (Cumbria)

Wensleydale (West Yorkshire)


1 yan yan un (pronounced een)
2 tyan tean dwy (du-i, or something very like it) or dau (dye)
3 tether tither tair (tire)
4 mether mither pedair (ped-ire)
5 pimp pip pump (pimp)
6 sethera teaser chwe (khw-eh, a soft KH in the throat, not a hard one at the front of the mouth)
7 lethera leaser saith (sythe with a soft TH, not voiced)
8 hovera catra wyth (weth or wuth with a light U)
9 dovera horna naw (now)
10 dic dick deg (OK with this one?)
11 yan a dic (one-and-ten)   un ar ddeg (as above plus THeg, with a voiced TH)
12 tyan a dic (two-and-ten)   deuddegg (deyTHeg)
13 tether a dic (three-and-ten)   tair ar ddeg (tire ar THeg)
14 mether a dic (four-and-ten)   pedwar ar ddeg
15 bumfit (fifteen) bumper pymtheg (pumtheg)
16 yan a bumfit (one-and-fifteen)   un ar bymtheg (p mutates to b)
17 tyan a bumfit (two-and-fifteen)   dwy ar bymtheg
18 tether a bumfit (three-and-fifteen)   deunaw (2 x 9)
19 mether a bumfit (four-and-fifteen)   pedair ar bymtheg
20 jiggot (twenty = score)   ugain (iggen)

You can read a LOT more about counting methods from various areas of Britain at: [takes you out of Museum: use Back button to return]

The Lakeland Dialect Society's Te deu wid sheep by Ted Relph lists versions of 1-5 and 6-10 recorded from various Lakeland dales. [takes you out of Museum: use Back button to return]

The Celtic Numerals of Strathclyde [download or read online; takes you out of Museum: use Back button to return]