Other Livestock

Sheep Are Still Thriving 10,000 Years After Domestication

Sheep is a term for selective grazing animals that may be domesticated or wild. Behaviorally, sheep are gregarious, precocial, defenseless creatures. But what does that mean? Gregarious means that they flock together or like to be with a group. It is rare to see a sheep by itself because of their gregarious nature. Precocial means that they have a high degree of independence at birth. This means that they can stand on their feet shortly after birth.

Sheep are defenseless for the most part against predators like coyotes and wild dogs. Sheep are also very selective in their grazing habits. They have a split in their upper lip, with this they can pick the preferred leaves from the plant. At one time all sheep were wild until around 10,000 BC when sheep were domesticated by humans. Sheep were also one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans.

Most of the wool breeds of sheep were developed from Mouflon sheep. Most of the hair breeds are like the Urial sheep of ancient times. As the sheep became domesticated, they went through several changes. On the outside the sheep began to develop more wool and less hair. The color of the wool and hair changed from brown and shades of brown to whites and blacks. Their ears became more of a lop ear than an erect ear. The horns that the wild sheep possessed were weakened and disappeared from many breeds.

On the inside the sheep changed as well. These internal changes happened at both ends. The tails had less vertebras, or bones than the sheep do now. Today’s sheep also have a smaller brain than the sheep 12,000 years ago. Sheep were tamed for several uses that still apply today. The sheep were first used for meat, skins, milk, and wool and they still are used for these basic purposes plus many more. Sheep byproducts are in many items that we use every day.

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