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
||Sheep and goats
- Early domestication
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. It is
not known which one was domesticated first.
- Life expectancy
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, 10 to
20 years. The average is 10 to 12 years. However, the length of
a sheep's productive lifetime tends to be much less. This is because
a ewe's productivity is usually highest between 3 and 6 years
of age and usually 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.
In harsher 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 is difficult
for them to maintain their body condition. 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.
- Aging sheep
The approximate age of a sheep can be determined
by examining 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 she ages past four, her incisor teeth will start to
spread, wear, and eventually break. When she's lost some of her
teeth, she's called a "broken mouth" ewe. When she's
lost all her teeth, she's called a "gummer."
- Cast sheep
A sheep that has rolled over onto its back
is called a "cast" sheep. It may not be able to get
up without assistance. It 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.
- A sheep's vital signs can help determine if it is sick.
| Body temperature
| Heart rate
Learn about normal
<= ABOUT SHEEP