FORGET the X Factor. And as for the Crazy Frog, he can hop it.

For when it comes to the Christmas Number One, a flock of sheep is the nation's most unlikely chart topper.

The Baarmy Sheep, a flock of Lake District sheep, are declaring themselves the UK's favourite pop stars today, at the same time X Factor winner Shayne Ward releases his first single.

With thousands of people downloading the sheep's Christmas single, Jingle Bells, from the Cumbria Tourist Board website, they are outstripping stars such as Madonna, Westlife and Robbie Williams.

The sheep, recorded baaing along to Jingle Bells, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Good King Wenceslas and While Shepherds Watch their Flocks by Night, have proved a massive hit in the US, Africa, Australia and Europe.

But Radio One's Official UK Download Charts will not recognise the single because it is not registered with an official Internet retailer, and so cannot be counted.

The Baarmy Sheep have attracted 83,000 free downloads in the past three weeks, against 9,000 a week for the current number one, Hung Up by Madonna.

Tourist board chairman Eric Robson thinks that is enough to earn it the top spot in the charts.

He said: "You could say it is the season to be jolly mad - if you're a Lake District sheep.

"We think the Baarmy Sheep have now earned the right to the official number one spot."

Downloads now account for 25 per cent of singles sales in the UK and bookmakers have been taking bets on Jingle Bells with odds averaging 66 to 1.

As a sign of their star status, the sheep are appearing on It's Christmas with Jonathan Ross, on BBC 1 at 8pm tomorrow.

Find Jingle Bells on

The Northern Echo's

Sheep Top Ten

1 Wool Meet Again

2 With or Without Ewe (by Ewe 2)

3 Stand by Your Ram

4 Chirpy-Chirpy-Sheep-Sheep

5 Tup of the World

6 Baa-Baa-Ann

7 Please Re-fleece Me

8 Leaning on a Lamb-post

9 We Will Flock You

10 Bleat Me on the Corner (by Lindisbarn)