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11 Interesting Facts About Sheep

11 Fun Facts About Sheep

posted on August 4, 2016
sheep lead photo.JPG 11 Fun Facts About Sheep

Here at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, we have Baby Doll Sheep in our petting zoo. Some of our sheep live down in the main petting zoo in the Farm Experience Center (in the Courtyard), while the rest live up in the Barnyard in the Animal Grove (on the hill). If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a baby lamb in the late spring or early summer!

1. The scientific name for domesticated sheep is Ovis aries. An adult male sheep is called a ram, while an adult female is called a ewe. Baby sheep are called lambs, and are usually birthed one or two at a time. The word sheep is derived from the Old English word sc?ap , and is used for both singular and plural references. You might hear a group of sheep referred to as a “flock,” a “mob” or a “herd” – all are acceptable and used in various parts of the world.

2. Sheep have an excellent sense of smell, and have scent glands both in front of their eyes and on their feet. These glands are used in reproduction and in marking territory.

3. Sheep are almost exclusively grazing herbivores. Because they tend to eat invasive plants, herds of sheep are often used for conservation grazing (which is the practice of using grazing animals to maintain the biodiversity of natural habitats).

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4. Most people know that sheep tend to flock together, but did you know that many breeds also stick to the same grazing spot? These sheep can be “hefted,” which means they are taught to graze in the same general area (called a “heft”). Lambs usually learn the heft from their mother, so the practice continues even as new lambs are added to the flock. Sometimes, farmers use sheep dog to help guide the sheep from where they’re grazing out in the hills back to the farm for the night.

5. Though most assume that sheep are unintelligent because of the flock attitude, studies have shown that sheep are actually on par with cattle and just below pigs when it comes to their IQ. They can learn and recognize human faces, and some will learn to respond to their name if trained from a young age.

6. What’s the difference between eating lamb and eating mutton? Well, both come from sheep, but “lamb” refers to eating the meat of a young sheep, while “mutton” refers to the meat of an older sheep.

Sheep produce a valuable product called lanolin

7. One of the most valuable sheep by-products is lanolin, a waterproof, fatty oil that is found naturally in sheep’s wool and used as a base for cosmetics and more.

8. While not as popular as cows or goats, sheep’s milk is often used in cheese and yogurt making.

9. The “world’s most famous sheep” was Dolly, a Finnish Dorset sheep who was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. She was born in 1996 and died shortly before her seventh birthday from a lung disease.

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10. Sheep factor into many religions and folklores around the world. The ram was the symbol of several ancient Egyptian gods. The Golden Fleece of the ram Chrysomallos is a part of the Greek mythological story of Jason the Argonaut. The ram (Aries) is the first sign of the zodiac, and the sheep is part of the Chinese calendar. Sheep play a big part Judaism, Christianity and Islam, since many major players in these religions were shepherds. Followers of Christianity are called the “flock,” with Christ known as the “Good Shepherd.”

11. References to counting sheep as a way to fall asleep can be found as early as the 1600s, in Miguel de Cervantes “Don Quixote.” While it is thought to be a largely ineffective way of falling asleep, “counting sheep” has been referenced so often in popular culture that sheep have become associated with sleep and insomnia.

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