Genus: Ovis aries
Size: 2’-4’ at shoulder; 150 – 300 lbs
Gestation: 150 days
No. of young: 1-3 lambs
Lifestyle: Herds or groups
Diet: Grazers on grass, grains, and hay
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Sheep originated in Africa, Asia and North America. They are part of the even-toed ungulates or “hoofed mammals”.
Among the characteristics peculiar to sheep are the presence of glands that open between the toes, angular horns with transverse wrinkles, and lack of a beard in the male. Most sheep produce wool, however, some breeds are entirely covered with hair. Sheep come in a variety of colors, the most common being white. Some are black and even fewer are brown, gray and reddish colored. In many instances variegated coloring and spotting are common.
Sheep are ruminants, having four stomach chambers. The first and largest stomach is called the rumen, thus the name ruminant. They rumen is a huge fermentation vat filled with micro-organisms. Here the indigestible fibers in plants are broken down into usable nutrients. From time to time the animal will regurgitate portions of food to be re-chewed. This is called “chewing their cud.”
Sheep are raised mainly for their wool and meat. Males are called rams, females called ewes and the young are called lambs.
Domestic sheep are not endangered.