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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

The Matriarch's lambs
Katahdin ewe with twin lambs

smut-faced lamb
Smut-faced lamb

That's my boy
Katahdin ewe and lamb

    Sheep Senses

  • Because they are a prey animal, sheep require excellent senses to enhance their chances of survival in the wild.

  • Vision
    Sheep depend heavily on their vision. They have excellent peripheral vision and can see behind themselves without turning their heads. However, they have poor depth perception. They cannot see immediately in front of their noses. Some vertical vision may also have been sacrificed in order to have a wider field of vision. For example, it is doubtful that a sheep would be able to see something in a tree.

  • Color perception
    Contrary to previous thought, sheep and other livestock perceive colors, though their color vision is not as well-developed as it is in humans. Sheep will react with fear to new colors.

  • Hearing
    Sheep have excellent hearing. They can direct their ears in the direction of a sound. Sound arrives at each ear at slightly different times, with a small difference in amplitude. Sheep are frightened by high-pitched and loud noises, such as barking dogs or firecrackers.

  • Smell
    Sheep have an excellent sense of smell. They are very sensitive to what different predators smell like. Smell helps rams locate ewes in heat and ewes locate their lambs. Sheep also use their sense of smell to locate water and determine subtle or major differences between feeds and pasture.

  • Taste
    The sense of taste in sheep is probably not as important as the other senses. However, sheep have the ability to differentiate different feedstuffs and taste may play a role in this ability. When presented with a variety of feeds, sheep will select certain feeds over others. Sheep will select different types and species of plants than other livestock.

  • Touch
    Since the sheep's body is covered with wool or coarse hair, only the nose, lips, mouth, and maybe ears readily lend themselves to touching behavior. However, touching is important to the interaction between sheep. Lambs seek bodily contact with their mothers and the ewes respond to touching in many ways, including milk letdown in response to the nuzzling/suckling stimulus of lambs. When young lambs sleep, they will seek out their mothers and lie close to them.

    Learn how sheep's natural instincts protect them from predators=>