Sheep are fascinating creatures. They are the quintessential farm animal and are docile and easy going, but what else do we know? Below are some interesting facts about them that should shed a new light on these little fluffy animals and the importance they bring not only to our food chain but also to the world.
1. The World’s First Organized Business Venture
Raising sheep is one of the world’s first organised industries. Sheep were raised for meat and for wool. The fat was also used for candle making. It all began back in Biblical times. Families would tend their flocks and the trade was passed down from generation to generation from the time of Adam and Eve. Man discovered the secret of spinning wool about 3500 BC.
2. Wool Gathering
Wool can be gathered once a year. It is a highly durable substance. It is fire-resistant and also soaks up moisture. It is wrinkle resistant and is a natural insulator. One sheep can produce between two to thirty pounds of wool a year.
Wool coming directly from the sheep is called Raw Wool. This Raw Wool may go through as many as 70 different processing cycles to ensure that it is of the highest quality to sell on the market.
From a historical perspective, by the time that the Romans invaded Britain in 55 B.C., the British wool was already revered for being of the finest quality and a thriving wool trade had already been established.
By the time the 15th century rolled around, wool was serious business worldwide. The wool trade in Spain was large enough to fund the expeditions of the conquistadors and the voyages of Christopher Columbus.
3. Who is Who?
A male sheep is called a Ram. A castrated male is called a Wether. A female sheep is called a Ewe. She can have anywhere from 1 to 3 lambs per litter. A Lamb is a baby sheep of age up to 14 months old.
4. Little Nibblers:
Sheep do not have teeth in the front upper jaw. In their mouths, they have 8 incisors and 24 molars. They also have a natural split in their upper lip that they use to select the most delicious leaves off of plants.
5. But What are They Used For?
The four main products from sheep are Mutton, (which is the meat from an adult sheep), Lamb (which is the meat from an immature animal), wool from their coat, and milk. Sheep’s milk is fabulous for making cheese. It already has high levels of vitamins A, B, E and calcium.
Cheese made from sheep’s milk include Greek feta cheese, Spanish Manchego, French Roquefort, and Italy’s Ricotta and Pecorino Romano cheeses. Other products that use sheep are cosmetics and skin care products (which use lanolin that is made from sheep’s wool), Tennis racket strings (which use sheep’s gut), and candles and soaps (which use the tallow from sheep’s fat).
Sheep are smart! They can recognise other sheep by their faces. They can remember up to fifty different animals for two years after separation. They can also recognise human faces and know their shepherd.
8. The Eyes Have It
Sheep have amazing eyesight. Their peripheral vision remains unmatched by most animals. Their pupils are large and rectangular shaped. This unusual shape lets them see nearly 360 degrees around. This means that these cute little beasties can see behind their heads without turning around.
Sheep are an important resource that has been around since the beginning of time. They have not only been important to our eco-system and lifecycle but have also been the catalyst to begin our worldwide business trade. Thinking about these little creatures allows for a new appreciation for sheep and their contributions to mankind.