Interesting Facts About Sheep and Goats

How much do you know about sheep and goats?

| November/December 2014

  • A painting of a sheep in the meadow.
    Photo by okalinichenko
  • A painting of sheep grazing in a meadow.
    Photo by okalinichenko

Sheep and goats

So you don’t ever want anybody to pull the wool over your eyes ... you say you hate being fleeced. Well, then, come on down and pull up a chair. Have we got some info for ewe!

Imagine the confusion: More than 11,000 years ago, sheep looked like goats.

According to experts who know these kinds of things, mouflon — from which our Ovis aries came — walked like goats, gave milk like goats, ate the same foods as goats, gave meat like a goat, and … whoa.

Wool. What a game-changer.

Our ancestors recognized a wild and wooly thing when they saw it, and they domesticated sheep not just once but in three different places, somewhere around 10,500 years ago. Despite any early resemblance of the two animals, that time frame actually predates goat domestication. Goats, as it turns out, are always late to the party.

Back then, there were just a handful of sheepish kinds — you could get a sheep, or you could get a sheep. These days, however, there are more than 900 kinds of non-wild ovines, descendants from three basic lines: European, Asian and African — with more than a billion sheep on this planet. Some offer wool to be shorn. Some offer hair for the plucking. Most are meat or milk animals. Some sheep can take snow and cold, while others would rather vacation in
the Bahamas.

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