Sheep are even-toed animals
Livestock guardian dog
Katahdin ewe and lamb
11 year old Katahdin ewe
8 year old mouth
Group of lambs
Basic information about sheep
Taxonomy is the classification of organisms into groups based on similarities of origin, structure, etc. Sheep are closely-related to other farm livestock,
(has spinal cord)
|| Hoofed animal
|| Even toed
|| Hollow horns
|| Sheep and goats
|| Domestic sheep
Domestication is when an organism is trained or adapted to live with people. Domestication often changes the appearance and behavior of the organism. While dogs were the first animal
to be domesticated, sheep and goats are tied for second and are the first animals to be domesticaled for agricultural purposes. They were domesticated over 10,000 years ago.
Life expectancy is how long an organism is expected to live. Typically, the life expectancy of an
animal increases with size. For example, cows usually live longer than
sheep. The life expectancy of sheep is similar to large breeds of dogs, about 10 to 12 years. Some breeds are known for being longer-lived, e.g. Merino. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the oldest sheep lived to be 23. She was a Merino.
However, the length of
a sheep's productive lifetime tends to be much less. This is because
a ewe's productivity usually peaks between 3 and 6 years
of age and begins to decline after the age of 7. As a result,
most ewes are removed from a flock before they would reach their natural life expectancy.
It is also necessary to get rid of older ewes in order to make
room for younger ones. The younger animals are usually genetically superior to the older ones.
In harsh environments (e.g. where forage is sparse), ewes are usually culled at a younger age
because once their teeth start to wear and break down, it becomes more difficult
for them to maintain their body condition and consume enough forage to feed their babies. It is possible for
a ewe to be productive past 10 years of age, if she is well-fed
and managed and stays healthy and sound.
The approximate age of a sheep can be determined
by examining their upper incisor teeth. At birth, lambs have eight baby (or milk) teeth
or temporary incisors arranged on their lower jaw. They don't
have any teeth on their top jaw, only a dental pad.
At approximately one year of age, the central pair of baby teeth
is replaced by a pair of permanent incisors. At age 2, the second pair is
replaced by permanent incisors. At 3 and 4 years, the third and
fourth pairs of baby teeth are replaced.
At approximately four years of age,
a sheep has a full mouth of teeth. As it ages past four, the incisor teeth will start to
spread, wear, and eventually break. When a ewe has lost some of her
teeth, she's called a "broken mouth" ewe. When she's
lost all her teeth, she's called a "gummer."
A sheep with no incisor teeth can still survive because it uses mostly its molars for chewing feed. However, it will have a harder time grazing, especially short vegetation.
A sheep that has rolled over onto its back
is called a "cast" sheep. It may not be able to get
up without assistance. This happens most commonly with short, stocky
sheep with full fleeces on flat terrain. Heavily pregnant ewes
are most prone. Cast sheep can become distressed and die within
a short period of time if they are not rolled back into a normal
position. When back on their feet, they may need supported for
a few minutes to ensure they are steady.
Vital signs are measures of various physiological statistics. A sheep's vital signs can help determine if it is sick or in distress.
| Body temperature
| Heart rate
Learn about normal
<= ABOUT SHEEP