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Sheep are the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural purposes. Sheep are raised for fleece, meat (lamb, hogget, or mutton), and milk. Sheep are related to antelope, cattle, muskoxen, and goats. There are a little over one billion domestic sheep in the world, making it the most numerous species of sheep. There are also five or six species of wild sheep in the world.
See the fact file below for more information on the sheep or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Sheep worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The word sheep comes from Middle English as a derivation of the Old English word scēap.
- Between 11,0000 and 9,000 BC, sheep were one of the first animal to be domesticated in Mesopotamia.
- Sheep figures are present in some mythologies – such as the Golden Fleece – and major religions, especially the Abrahamic traditions.
- In both ancient and modern religious rituals, sheep are used as sacrificial animals.
- Sheep are part of the Bovidae family, which includes antelope, cattle, and goats.
- Here is the taxonomy of sheep, according to ITIS:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Subkingdom: Bilateria
- Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
- Superclass: Tetrapoda
- Class: Mammalia
- Subclass: Theria
- Infraclass: Eutheria
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Bovidae
- Subfamily: Caprinae
- Genus: Ovis
- Ovis ammon (argalis), with nine subspecies
- Ovis aries (domestic sheep, mouflon, red sheep, feral sheep), with nine subspecies, including urials
- Ovis canadensis (bighorn sheep), with seven subspecies
- Ovis dalli (Dall’s sheep, Fannin’s sheep, Stone’s sheep), with two subspecies
- Ovis nivicola (snow sheep), with four subspecies
CHARACTERISTICS AND BREEDS
- Goat specialist, Susan Schoenian from the University of Maryland’s Western Maryland Research & Education Center, states that there are more than 10,000 distinct breeds of domestic sheep (Ovis Aries) around the globe.
- Domestic sheep usually have a crimped hair called wool and often have horns forming a lateral spiral.
- Depending on breed, domestic sheep may have no horns at all such as polled sheep, horns in both sexes, or in males only.
- Sheep have a wide variation in color. Wild sheep wool is usually in brown hues. Domestic sheep are from pure white to dark chocolate brown or have pigmented spots.
- Female sheep (ewe) typically weigh between 45-100 kilograms. Male sheep (ram) typically weight between 45-160 kilograms.
- Mature sheep have around 32 teeth.
- They have a horizontal slit-shaped pupils which allows them to have an excellent peripheral vision. They can see what’s behind them without turning their heads.
- Breeds are often categorized by the type of their wool, face color, tail length, presence of horns or lack of horns, and topography of where they live.
- There are numerous sheep breeds in the world that serve many purposes. Sheep breeds provide a whole range of products. Rambouillet sheep, Dorset sheep, and some other sheep breeds are good providers of wool fiber, lambs, milk, and meat.
- Sheep breeds raised for meat
- The Dorper breed, which originates from South Africa, is in high demand as a meat breed which gains weight easily through eating grass.
- Hampshire, Suffolk, Black Bellied Barbados, Targhee, Polypay, Cheviot, Dorset, and Jacob breeds are also commonly raised for meat production.
- Sheep breed raised for fleece or fiber
- Merino Sheep – A Spanish breed with superior, fine quality wool. The wool has a micron count of between 17 – 22 microns and an average length of between 2.5 and 4 inches.
- Rambouillet – Developed from Spanish Merino and used extensively in the western United States in large sheep flocks. This breed is large boned and tall. The Rambouillet have a long life expectancy. Micron count – 19 to 24. Wool length is between 2.5 to 4 inches.
- Dorset – A breed from southern England with all white fleece. The sheep is a medium size and the fiber has a micron count of 26 to 32. The standard wool length is 3 to 4.5 inches.
- Suffolk – An English cross of Southdown and Norfolk breeds. The Suffolk is the largest breed in the United States. The sheep has white wool with black faces and heads. The fiber is a medium grade of 26 to 33 microns. The standard wool length is 2.5 to 3.5 inches.
- Sheep breeds for dairy production
- East Friesian – An excellent milking breed yielding over 1000 lbs per year of milk each.
- Finnish Landrace and Polypay, along with the East Frisian are known for their high fertility and multiple births in addition to their high milk production.
DIET, BEHAVIOUR, AND CONSERVATION STATUS
- Sheep are herbivores, so they do not include meat in their diet.
- They normally eat grass, seeds, and other plants.
- Sheep have a complex digestive system composed of four chambers, which allows them to break down cellulose from stems, leaves, and seed hulls into carbohydrates.
- To completely digest their food, sheep will regurgitate their food into their mouths, re-chew, and swallow. This regurgitated food is called cud.
- Sounds produced by sheep include bleats, grunts, rumbles, and snorts. Bleating or “baaing” is used to communicate especially between ewes and lambs. Each sheep produced unique bleats enabling the ewe and her lambs to recognize each other’s vocalizations.
- Rumbling sounds are made by the ram during courting.
- The male sheep fight for the right to a female sheep – the strongest ram is the only one allowed to mate.
- Mating season, called the rut, happens in the autumn. After mating, female sheep have a gestation period of around five months.
- Sheep usually give birth to one or two offspring at a time.
- Most sheep species are listed as least concern with no threat of extinction according to IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
- But urials (sheep classified as Ovis orientalis, with eight subspecies), found in the Mediterranean and Middle East, are listed as Vulnerable.
- The decline of their population is caused by hunting, habitat deterioration, and hybridization.
- Due to poaching and competition with livestock, the Argalis (Ovis Ammon), found in Central Asia, are listed as Near Threatened due to significant population decline.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about sheep across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Sheep worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the sheep which are the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural purposes. Sheep are raised for fleece, meat (lamb, hogget, or mutton), and milk. Sheep are related to antelope, cattle, muskoxen, and goats. There are a little over one billion domestic sheep in the world, making it the most numerous species of sheep. There are also five or six species of wild sheep in the world.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Sheep Facts
- The Ovine
- Breed of Sheep
- Wool Countries
- The Little Lamp went to Market
- Sheep Vocabulary
- Black or White Sheep
- Varieties of Wool
- The Flock Quiz
- Raising Sheep for Science
- Hidden Lives of Sheep
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Link will appear as Sheep Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, January 29, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.