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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



Dolly's first lamb
Photo courtesy of Roslin Institute


The "rapist"

Shrek
Shrek


world's oldest sheep
Lucky: world's oldest sheep
Image link: BBC

Miracle lamb
The "miracle" lamb
Photo by Nayef Hashlamoun


    Famous sheep

  • Dolly
    Dolly became the most famous sheep in history when her birth was announced by the Roslin Institute in Scotland in 1997. Dolly was the world's first mammal to be cloned. She was born July 5, 1996, from three different mothers.

    Her genetic mother provided the DNA. A second ewe provided the egg into which the DNA was injected and a third ewe carried the cloned embryo. It took 276 attempts before the experiment was successful. The birth of Dolly was hailed as a huge scientific breakthrough. Dolly became a superstar and seemed to enjoy the human attention.

    Learn how Dolly was cloned=>

    Dolly gave birth to six lambs. She was euthanized when she was six and a half years old after she developed a lung infection. Dolly's health problems may have been the result of the fact that she was cloned from a six year old ewe. Dolly also suffered from a form of arthritis. After her death, Dolly was stuffed and put on display in the Royal Museum of Scotland.

  • The Dollies
    After Dolly was created from a cell from a mammary gland, the rest of the sample was frozen. Several years later, four clones were created from the same mammary tissue. The quads were nicknamed the "Dollies" and are exact genetic copies of Dolly. The existence of the Dollies was not made public until late 2010.


  • The Toast of Botswana
    An unusual case of a sheep-goat hybrid was reported by veterinarians in Botswana in 2000. The animal was naturally born from the mating of a female goat with a male sheep that were kept together. Such pregnancies were not thought possible.

    The hybrid had 57 chromosomes, intermediate between sheep (54) and goats (60) proving it was not a case of mistaken identity. Its features were halfway between sheep and goats. The hybrid had a very active libido, mounting both ewes and does when they were not in heat. This earned him the name "Bemya" or the "rapist." He was castrated when he was 10 months old because he was becoming such a nuisance.


  • Shrek 1 and 2
    A renegade New Zealand sheep managed to evade shearers for six years. Dubbed "Shrek," the Merino sheep was shorn live on television by top shearers David Fagan and Peter Casserly. The 10-year old sheep managed to roam freely on New Zealand's South Island for more than six years before being rounded up. Shrek's 60-pound fleece, enough to make 20 large men's suits, was auctioned off over the internet for the benefit of children's medical charities.

    Shrek 2 bested Shrek 1 by avoiding shearing for 7 years. His fleece was removed in April 2005. It weighed 68.2 pounds and measured three meters in length. Shrek 2 was approximately 11 years old.


  • World's oldest sheep
    Lucky was the world's oldest sheep. She died in November 2009 at the age of 23, twice the life expectancy of a sheep. Lucky succumbed to the effects of a heat wave in Australia and died peacefully after a short illness.

    The previous record for longevity was held by George, a Merino wether, also from Australia. George died in his sleep in 2006 at the age of 21. Lucky and George were both kept as pets. They were recognized by the Guinness World Records for being the oldest living sheep.


  • Miracle lamb
    In March 2004, a lamb was born on the West Bank. What looked like "Allah" (the arabic word for God) was spelled out in Arabic on its back. According to witnesses, the name of the Prophet Mohammed was spelled out on the other side, though it was harder to see. Many Palestinians traveled through several Israeli checkpoints to see the "miracle" lamb.


  • Moviestars
    Border Leicester sheep were featured in the 1995 hit movie Babe, which tells the story of a sheep-herding pig. The movie required 970 animals, including 550 sheep. All scenes of sheep herding were real herds and the trained dogs who herded them. When the sheep appear to be attentively listening and keeping very still, both real and animatronic sheep were used.

    The ratio was one animatronic sheep for every three real sheep. The real sheep were trained to calmy remain on their marks. When the sheep walk in unison, real sheep were used and harnessed with a very thin material that was not visible on camera. These sheep had been trained in pre-production to respond so that when one was called, they all followed.