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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 - (301) 432-2767 x343

Rambouillet ram
Rambouillet ram

Four-horned Jacob ram
Four-horned Jacob ram

Awassi rams
Awassi rams


    Beauty adorns the ram with horns

  • Horned vs. Polled
    While originally all rams had horns, sheep can have horns or not, depending upon their breed, sex, and genetics. In some sheep breeds, both sexes are horned. In some breeds, only the rams have horns. Rams usually have larger, more striking horns than ewes. When neither sex is horned, the breed is said to be polled or naturally hornless.

    Some sheep breeds have both a horned and polled strain. Partial or undeveloped horns are call scurs. While horns are sometimes removed from cows or goats for safety and management ease, horns are seldom removed from sheep unless they pose a danger to the animal.

  • Beautiful horns
    A sheep's horns are hollow, consisting of a keratinous sheath overlying a bony core that is attached to the skull. Horns will grown through a sheep's lifetime, with the most rapid growth occuring during the first two to three years of life.

    Sheep horns tend to curl and spiral, whereas goat horns grow straight out or up. Some rams have such beautiful horns that they are raised as "trophy" animals. Horns can be made into knife handles, hair combs, powder horns, and horse bits.

  • Four horns
    Rare genetics allow some sheep to have four or more horns.

  • Polled sheep
    Horns are useful to wild sheep, but don't have much of a purpose in commercial sheep production systems. Horns can make handling sheep, especially rams more difficult and dangerous, and more time consuming. Horned animals can get the heads stuck in fences, feeders, and equipment. As a result, selection has been for polled animals over the years.