Related topics: cattle

Software to protect the world's most endangered species

By combining genetic and environmental databases, researchers at EPFL are seeking to help biologists identify more accurately the animal and plant species most exposed to climate change, in order to develop appropriate conservation ...

Stressed sheep fleeced for their genes

Genetics play a large factor in determining the temperament of sheep and how they react to stress, a study carried out by The University of Western Australia has found.

Domestic sheep

Domestic sheep (Ovis aries) are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name "sheep" applies to many species, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over 1 billion, domestic sheep are the most numerous species in their genus.

Sheep are most likely descended from the wild mouflon of Europe and Asia. One of the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural purposes, sheep are raised for fleece, meat (lamb or mutton) and milk. A sheep's wool is the most widely used of any animal, and is usually harvested by shearing. Ovine meat is called lamb when from younger animals and mutton when from older ones. Sheep continue to be important for wool and meat today, and are also occasionally raised for pelts, as dairy animals, or as model organisms for science.

Sheep husbandry is practised throughout the majority of the inhabited world, and has been fundamental to many civilizations. In the modern era, Australia, New Zealand, the southern and central South American nations, and the British Isles are most closely associated with sheep production. Sheep-raising has a large lexicon of unique terms which vary considerably by region and dialect. Use of the word sheep began in Middle English as a derivation of the Old English word scēap; it is both the singular and plural name for the animal. A group of sheep is called a flock, herd or mob. Adult female sheep are referred to as ewes, intact males as rams or tups, castrated males as wethers, and younger sheep as lambs. Many other specific terms for the various life stages of sheep exist, generally related to lambing, shearing, and age. ‎ Being a key animal in the history of farming, sheep have a deeply entrenched place in human culture, and find representation in much modern language and symbology. As livestock, sheep are most-often associated with pastoral, Arcadian imagery. Sheep figure in many mythologies—such as the Golden Fleece—and major religions, especially the Abrahamic traditions. In both ancient and modern religious ritual, sheep are used as sacrificial animals. In contemporary English language usage, people who are timid, easily led, or stupid are often compared to sheep.

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