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.
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.
Sheep & Goat Specialist
W. MD Research & Education Center
University of Maryland Extension
email@example.com - (301) 432-2767 x343
Natural Tails are a natural part of sheep. Almost all lambs are
born with tails. The length of a lamb's tail is half-way between
the length of its mother's tail and its father's tail. In fact,
tail length is a highly heritable trait. Eighty-four percent
of the differences in sheep tail length are due to genetics.
Purpose The purpose of the sheep's tail is to protect the anus,
vulva, and udder from weather extermes. Sheep lift their tails
when they defecate and use their tails, to some extent, to scatter
Docking Under modern sheep production systems, tails are usually
docked (shortened) to prevent fecal matter from accumulating
on the back side of the sheep, which can result in fly strike
(wool maggots). Tail docking also makes it easier to shear
the sheep. The tail does not interfere with breeding or lambing.
There are different methods that can be used to dock the tails
of lambs. The most common method is to put a rubber band around
the tail. It is recommended that lambs be docked at a young
age (1 to 7 days) to minimize the stress and pain experienced
by the lamb. The dock (tail) should be left long enough to
cover the ewe's vulva and ram's anus.
Hair sheep It is usually not necessary to dock the tails of most hair
sheep breeds, including Katahdin, Barbado, Barbados Blackbelly,
Damara, St. Croix (Virgin Island White), Wiltshire Horn, Pelibüey,
Santa Inês, or Royal White®.
Rat-tailed sheep Some wooled breeds have naturally short tails or thin, woolless
tails that do not require docking. These breeds are called Northern
European short-tailed or "rat-tailed" sheep. They
include Finn Sheep, East Friesian, Shetland, Icelandic, Romanov,
Fat-tailed sheep Some sheep have fat or broad rumps and/or tails. In fact,
these comprise 25 percent of the world's sheep population. It
is not customary to dock their tails. In fact, the fat tail
is considered a delicacy in some cultures. Sheep-tail fat is
called "allyah" in Arabic. Historical relgious text
(Hadith) claims that sheep-tail fat is a "cure" for
sciatica (lower back and leg pain caused by irritation of the
Naturally-docked sheep Using the short-tail breeds as a basis, scientists in
Australia and New Zealand are trying to breed sheep with naturally
short tails that do not require docking and make the sheep
less prone to fly strike. Years ago, researchers in the U.S.
tried to breed "tail-less" sheep. The tail-less
trait was linked to a lethal gene, similar to the situation
with Manx cats.