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redirects here. For other uses, see Sheep (disambiguation).
redirects here. For other uses, see Lamb (disambiguation).
The domestic sheep
(Ovis aries), the most common species of the sheep genus (Ovis), is a woolly ruminant quadruped which probably descends from the wild mouflon of south-central and south-west Asia. Sheep breeders refer to female sheep as ewes, intact males as rams, castrated males as wethers, yearlings as hoggets, and younger sheep as lambs. In sheep husbandry, a group
of sheep is called a flock or mob.
There are many breeds of sheep, but these are generally sub-classable as: wool class, hair class and sheep meat breeds.
Farmers develop wool
breeds for superior wool quantity and quality (fineness of fibers), wool staple length and degree of crimp in the fiber. Major wool breeds include Merino, Rambouillet, Romney and Lincoln.
Breeders of dual purpose
wool class sheep concentrate on fast growth, multiple births, ease of lambing and hardiness. Drysdale is a sheep bred specifically for carpet wool. An easy-care sheep is the Coopworth that has long wool and good lamb meat production qualities.
Breeds of meat sheep
include Suffolk, Hampshire, Dorset, Columbia, and Texel.
One dual-use breed
is the Corriedale. Sometimes sheep are used for both purposes equally and cross-breeding is practiced to maximise
both outputs. For example, Merino ewes providing wool may be crossed with Suffolk rams to produce lambs which are robust and
suitable for the meat market. The Finnish Landrace sheep has a reputation for multiple births.
Hair class sheep are
the original class of sheep in the world, developed for meat and leather. They are prolific and highly resistant to disease
and parasites. Dorpers and Kahtahdins are composite breeds of wool and hair crosses with different degrees of wool/hair mixes
within the hair class. True hair sheep, are those breeds such as St. Croix, Barbados Blackbelly, Mouflon, Santa Inez and Royal
White eg. that shed their protective down fiber to an all hair coat in the Spring/Summer. Hair class sheep are becoming more
popular for their no-shear aspects.