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  • Welcome to Sheep 101. The purpose of Sheep 101 is to teach 4-H and FFA members, students, teachers, beginning shepherds, and the general public about sheep, their products, how they are raised, and their contributions to society. The site uses simple language and pictures to illustrate the various topics. To begin learning about sheep, click on a link in the menu bar or choose a topic from the drop down menu above.


  • About the author. The author of Sheep 101 is Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center. Susan has been with University of Maryland Extension since 1988. She raises Katahdin sheep on her small farm, called The Baalands, in Clear Spring, Maryland. Susan has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science degrees from Virginia Tech and Montana State University, respectively.

  • Susan Schoenian
    Sheep & Goat Specialist
    W. MD Research & Education Center
    University of Maryland Extension
    sschoen@umd.edu - (301) 432-2767 x343
    www.sheepandgoat.com


Looking for action
Katahdin flock


Dorper ram
3/4 White Dorper ram

Boys will be boys
Young Katahdin males

    Ouch!

  • Natural and learned behavior
    Head butting is both a natural and learned behavior in sheep. Contestive head butting is a carry-over from when sheep ran wild and from those that still do. Since only the dominant rams get to mate with the ewes, rams must fight to earn this privilege.



  • Rutting
    Classic head butting among rams is highest during the rutting season which preceeds the onset of estrus activity in ewes. It is a way for rams to get into physical shape for the breeding season and to establish (or re-establish) the dominance hierarchy.



  • Establishing a social order
    Sheep are the classical flocking animal. They work out a social order by head butting, poking with horns, shoulder pushing, blocking, and mounting. This is seen most clearly in rams who back off, then charge, meeting head-to-head with a large bang.



  • Discourage butting
    Rams begin to butt at a young age.  To discourage butting, you should avoid petting or scratching a ram on the head. The ram may see this as a challenge or aggressive behavior. To a ram, a person is part of the flock and he wants to dominate.



  • Never turn your back on a ram
    No matter how friendly a ram may seem, he should never be trusted. You should never turn your back on a ram. Ram can cause serious injury to you and other sheep.