A Tiny Sheep
9 x 4 x 6 cm
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( Ceramic Small Sheep – SHEEP-C-001 )
A Tiny Sheep
Numbering a little over one billion, domestic sheep are the most numerous species of sheep. An adult female sheep is referred to as a ewe, an intact male as a ram or occasionally a tup, a castrated male as a wether, and a younger sheep as a lamb.
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, from Young animals and mutton from older ones) and milk. A sheep’s wool is the mos t widely used animal fibre, and is usually harvested by shearing. Sheep continue to be important for wool and meat today, and are also occasionally raised for pelts, or as dairy animals.
Sheep husbandry is practised throughout the majority of the inhabited world, and has been fundamental to many civilisations. 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.
Domestic sheep are relatively small ruminants, usually with crimped hair called wool and often with horns. A few primitive breeds of sheep retain some of the characteristics of their wild cousins, such as short tails. Depending on breed, domestic sheep may have no horns at all (i.e. polled), or horns in both sexes, or in males only. Most horned breeds have a single pair, but a few breeds may have several.
Another trait unique to domestic sheep as compared to wild sheep is their wide variation in colour. Wild sheep are largely variations of brown hues, and variation within species is extremely limited. Colours of domestic sheep range from pure white to dark chocolate brown, and even spotted or piebald. Selection for easily dyeable white fleeces began early in sheep domestication, and as white wool is a dominant trait it spread quickly. The nature of the fleece varies widely among the breeds, from dense and highly crimped, to long and hairlike.