A-z - Animals


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"Sheep were one of the first and most successful domesticated animals in the world."

With their sweet faces, gentle dispositions and endless stocks of fluffy white wool, it's no surprise that sheep are one of the most popular livestock animals in existence.

There are more than 1 billion domestic sheep and several wild sheep subspecies worldwide. Some sheep are raised for wool, some for meat; but either way, these animals are an important part of nearly every culture.

3 Incredible Sheep Facts

lamb lamb
Sheep are animals that have a set of baby teeth that fall out as they age. Most people reach adulthood slowly and don't get their full set of teeth until they are 4 years old.

©iStock.com/Sebastian Jakimczuk

  • Teeth: Like humans, sheep are animals that have a set of baby teeth that shed as they age. Most people reach adulthood slowly and don't get their full set of teeth until they are 4 years old.
  • Winter coat: The wool farmers collect when they shear these animals is actually the undercoat that grows under their main fur. Wild sheep grow these undercoats in the winter and shed them when the weather warms up. Domesticated sheep never shed their hair.
  • Family Dynamics: Sheep are family-loving animals who bond with their mothers and siblings. In a large flock, you may notice that related sheep always stand together.

scientific name

sheep, eating, grazing, grass, ewe
The scientific name for domesticated sheep is Ovis aries .

© iStock.com/Marjan Visser

The scientific name for domesticated sheep is Ovis aries . Latin etymologies of the name include "ovis", meaning "sheep", and "aries", meaning "ram". The genus Ovis has several different species, all of which are often referred to as "sheep." Non-domestic examples include bighorn sheep, mountain and snow sheep. All sheep belong to the class Mammalia, which belongs to the subfamily Bovidae and Capra.

As with many domesticated species, sheep of different sexes and ages have different names. Females are called "ewes" and males are called "rams". Neutered males are often referred to as "weathers". Baby sheep are called lambs, and 1-2 year olds are called "yearlings".

evolution and origin

sheep, lamb - animal, white, grass, flock
The origin of sheep can be traced back to the wild mouflon, a species of wild sheep that still exists in the mountains of Asia and Europe today.


The origin of sheep can be traced back to the wild mouflon, a species of wild sheep that still exists in the mountains of Asia and Europe today. These wild sheep were domesticated in the Middle East and Central Asia about 8000-9000 years ago. Domestication likely occurred because of animals' adaptations to various environments, and their adaptation to meat, milk, and wool production.

Over time, sheep were selectively bred to enhance certain traits, such as increased wool production and increased meat quality. This process led to the development of the many different breeds of sheep that exist today.

As sheep were domesticated and spread to different parts of the world, they encountered different environmental and selective pressures. This led to the evolution of different breeds of sheep adapted to specific conditions. For example, some sheep breeds are better suited to colder climates and produce thicker wool, while others are better suited to hotter climates and produce less wool.

Today, sheep are raised all over the world for cultural and religious reasons to produce meat, milk and wool. With the advancement of science and technology, the breeding and management of sheep are becoming more and more scientific, and the production efficiency is also getting higher and higher.

different types of sheep

  • Duper
  • Merino wool
  • valais black nose
  • suffolk sheep
  • Texel sheep
  • Prien sheep
  • Avasi
  • cameroon sheep
  • Radum
  • Scottish blackface
  • New Hampshire
  • horn of dorset
  • sheep
  • southern sheep
  • Montadelle
  • Herdwick
  • Harry
  • romanov sheep
  • Corrydale
  • sheep
  • rye field
  • Raqqa
  • royal white
  • Wiltipole
  • Treasure
  • Meat Master
  • Kupworth
  • Wiltshire Horn
  • Jacob sheep
  • Katahdin sheep
  • Uda sheep
  • Najdi sheep
  • columbian sheep
  • shetland sheep
  • Assaf sheep
  • Ronke
  • Karakul sheep
  • Pelibier
  • Rambouillet sheep
  • australian white sheep
  • chevrolet sheep
  • Marco Polo sheep
  • icelandic sheep
  • barbados black belly
  • border leicester
  • sheep
  • charolais sheep
  • romney sheep
  • East Frisian sheep
  • blue face leicester
  • swaledale sheep
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appearance and behavior

little sheep portrait
Sheep are thick-hoofed mammals with four legs, thick bodies and short tails.

©iStock.com/Matthäus Rojek

These animals are thick-hoofed mammals with four legs, thick trunks and short tails. Sheep are artiodactyls, which means their hooves are neatly spaced down the middle. All of these animals are covered with thick hair supported by a soft woolly undercoat.

Domestic sheep are bred to be particularly fluffy, but wild sheep are often rounder in size and better suited to mountain environments.

Both wild and domestic sheep have horns, but wild species tend to have more impressive spiral-shaped horns. As with most species, rams almost always have larger horns than ewes. Some domestic sheep are bred to be completely hornless.

These animals are shorter than other ungulates. Most domestic sheep are about 4-5 feet long and stand about 2-4 feet tall. Males can weigh 100-350 pounds, while females tend to stop growing at 220 pounds. They are known for their fluffy fleece, which often makes them appear larger than they really are, and impressive

These animals live in groups and are almost never separated from other members of the group. A stray sheep can be very distressed and bleat loudly until the flock or human caretaker is found. Within their flock, they have a strong sense of family.

If you observe a large group, you may notice the animal hanging out with their siblings, parents and grandparents. When the flock leader moves to another pasture, the rest of the flock will follow; this is why these animals are such a popular livestock choice.

sheep and goats

The goat's scientific name is Capra aegagrus hircus .

© Jesus Keller/Shutterstock.com

The goat's scientific name is Capra aegagrus hircus . Sheep and goats are easily confused from a distance. However, if you've ever come into contact with any of these animals, you'll quickly notice the differences between these two members of the Caprinae family.

  • Face: Goats usually have whiskers, but domestic sheep and most wild sheep do not. Goats also always have horns; unlike sheep, the bases of goat horns usually point straight up.
  • Diet: Sheep are herbivores, slowly grazing on grass and weeds throughout the pasture. Goats, by contrast, are browsers that pluck leaves from one plant before moving on to the next.
  • Behavior: Sheep live in flocks and are easy to follow. Goats live in herds and are very social animals, but they have individual characteristics that are immediately apparent to anyone who interacts with them.


Domesticated sheep have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. Thanks to their thick wool coats, they can adapt to almost any climate. All they need is shelter, water, and large pastures where they can graze. Due to the need for pasture, domestic sheep are generally raised in places with large land areas such as foothills and plains.

Wild sheep can be found in almost every mountainous area in the world. Bighorn sheep are especially common in the Rocky Mountains of North America. However, you can also find these animals in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. They are excellent climbers with strong lungs and the ability to live at altitudes as high as 19,600 feet.


sheep eat
Sheep eat grass, leaves, legumes and flowering plants.

These animals are a group of herbivores known as ruminants. This means they have a complex polygastric digestive system designed to break down the cellulose present in grass and hay. Ruminants need a lot of food to survive, and they work hard to digest it; that's why they spend most of their time eating and ruminating.

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The minimum daily animal consumption is approximately 0.03 lb of grass or hay per lb of body weight. This means that a 100-pound animal needs to eat 3 pounds of hay per day to maintain a healthy weight. Young animals tend to eat more than this, and cold weather always calls for increased feed.

During the summer, most farmers who own these animals prefer to feed them on a rotational grazing system. This means letting your flock graze on a patch of grass until it starts to thin. Then, move your animals to a different pasture to allow the first animal to regrow. Sheep graze very quickly, so you may need to own a lot of land for this system to work.

Hay is an excellent choice for animals that must be kept indoors, especially during the winter. Always use regular hay, as alfalfa hay is very high in calcium. Likewise, you should ensure that any pasture your flock enters is cleared of noxious weeds.

Finally, if you want to treat your animals, they do love to munch on grains, veggies and fruits. Good choices include apples, oats, carrots, and lettuce. Don't feed these animals too many treats; if a sheep eats too much of anything that isn't grass, they run the risk of becoming gassy and very unwell.

Predators and Threats

These are hoofed mammals, making them prime targets for large predators around the world. Some of the most dangerous threats to sheep include wolves, mountain lions and coyotes. Most farmers have to work hard to make sure that predators don't get close to their flocks when they're out to pasture.

These animals have no means of defending themselves, so they often rely on human caretakers and sheepdogs. A good fencing will provide your flock with more psychological security than any other security measure. Most shepherds carefully count the members of their flock to make sure no one is left behind before the barn door closes at night.

Feral sheep are not aggressive, but they tend to be startled by the presence of humans. Deforestation and overexploitation are both causing a slow decline in suitable habitat for sheep across the globe. That being said, most wild sheep are classified as least of concern for conservation efforts.

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

lamb brothers and sisters
Ewes usually don't show signs of pregnancy until about a month and a half before their farrowing date, so it can be difficult to tell if they are carrying lambs.

© iStock.com/Jag_cz

A flock of sheep usually consists of a ram and as many ewes as he and the farmer can care for. Large flocks may have two rams, but they will likely fight each other to establish dominance. The dominant ram will usually mate with every non-related ewe in the flock.

The gestation period for ewes lasts an average of five months. Ewes usually don't show signs of pregnancy until about a month and a half before their farrowing date, so it can be difficult to tell if they are carrying lambs. However, just before calving, ewes will start to show obvious signs of discomfort and may start looking for a place to give birth.

Ewes usually give birth to 1 to 3 lambs at a time, most commonly twins. Lambs typically weigh between 5-10 pounds at birth and gain about half a pound per day for 2-3 months. Lambs can be separated from their mothers as early as 6 months of age; however, this separation is not usually recommended because they like to be with their families.

These animals do not reach sexual maturity until around 1 year of age. Because many ewes are not fully grown or emotionally mature at this point, many farmers recommend waiting until the sheep are around 2 years of age before breeding. Yearlings are usually separated from the rest of the flock when the breeding season arrives for safety reasons.

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A well-loved sheep usually lives to be around 12 years old. The oldest sheep ever lived has been named Methuselina and she lived to an impressive 28 years old. Sheep are slower and slower to start producing wool as they age. They may also begin to experience symptoms of arthritis, tiredness, and general poor health.


Currently, there are more than 1 billion domesticated sheep in the world. The country with the most sheep is China, which once had 187 million sheep.

Wild sheep populations are not particularly well tracked, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas where these sheep like to live. There are an estimated 700,000 bighorn sheep left in North America. Because this population is stable, bighorn sheep are considered the least of concern.

sheep in zoo

The Denver Zoo is one of the best places to see bighorn sheep. You can also find desert bighorn sheep at the Los Angeles Zoo. However, if you want to see domestic sheep in person, the best way is to visit a local farm so you can meet their livestock.

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Sheep are herbivores, which means they eat plants.

Sheep belong to the animal kingdom.

All members of the genus Ovis are herbivores. Sheep usually only eat hay, grass and some grains or vegetables as a snack.

What is the Difference Between Sheep and Goats?

Both sheep and goats are members of the family Capricidae. Sheep belong to the genus Ovis while goats belong to the genus Capra . The key difference between sheep and goats is that sheep live together and have a very socially dependent personality whereas goats live in a herd but have a lot of individual independence. You can tell the difference between sheep and goats by looking at their faces; goats have whiskers and straight horns, while sheep have no whiskers and have small or curly horns that are angled.

Sheep eat mainly hay and grass. While they might eat a piece of apple as a treat, sheep cannot eat too much fruit and vegetables without risking flatulence.

Sheep have sweet, family-oriented personalities. As long as you follow standard procedures, your sheep will be relatively docile. Note that each sheep may have its own personality.

Ewes are called ewes. Male sheep are usually called rams, and neutered rams are called ewes.

Sheep are not particularly aggressive towards their keepers or other sheep. However, they may not like interacting with strangers; flocks have been known to chase away unwanted company with light headbutts and kicks.

The plural form of the word "sheep" is "sheep". To avoid confusion, some people prefer to say "a sheep" and refer to the plural as "a flock of sheep".

Sheep belong to the bovine family.

Sheep belong to the order Artiodactyla.

Sheep are covered with wool.

Sheep belong to the genus Ovis.

Sheep live in grasslands and mountains.

Natural enemies of sheep include humans, wolves, and coyotes.

The average number of babies a sheep has is 1.

The scientific name of sheep is Ovis aries.

Sheep can live 5 to 10 years.

Sheep can travel as fast as 25 miles per hour.

Goat eyes are very similar to sheep eyes. Some of the differences between the two include that sheep's eyes have a wider field of vision and are light brown or blue in color, while goats' eyes are usually brown or tan.