Do you have questions about sheep? Me too. I’ve kept sheep for 5 years now, and I still have questions. Some of my questions include:
- How did they get out of that field?
- How did they get into that field?
- Why are they not in the right field?
Your questions might be easier to answer! I asked Google what the top 17 questions about sheep are, and one windy, wet evening I sat and wrote down my answers. So here we go. Ready?
17 Answers to questions about sheep
1. How long do sheep live?
It depends. Sheep have 3 main aims in life. To eat, to escape, and to die. The farmer’s aim is to feed them, keep track of them, and keep them alive.
Seriously though, it does depend. Sheep bred for lamb (the meat) can live up to a year. Sheep bread for hogget (meat) will live to 2, and sheep bred for mutton can live for longer (ours are allowed to reach the end of their third summer).
However, sheep can live for up to 12 years if they are well cared for and not put in the freezer.
2. What do sheep eat?
A lot. Sheep graze grass and other foliage. They like a rose bush that has recently flowered. They are particular fans of ones that you have spent a lot of time looking after. Your herb patch is also fair game.
In the winter, if grass is in short supply they might eat silage (fermented grass) and/or hay. They are also given “cake” or “nuts” which look a bit like dry dog food. It is full of extra vitamins and minerals to help them get through the winter.
It is important to feed sheep well in the winter because this is when their lambs are developing. Don’t feed them dog food, please and thank you.
Also thanks to every one who pointed out that the gif below is in fact a goat.
3. How long are sheep pregnant for?
Sheep are pregnant for just over 5 months. 152 days to be precise. It’s not precise at all in reality. Just like in humans, it can vary.
4. How many stomachs does a sheep have?
Sheep are Ruminants. That means they have 4 stomachs. They are called the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasums.
In simpler terms, the grass they eat is processed 4 times. It allows the sheep to get all the goodness possible from their food, even if it is lower quality.
“To ruminate on something” means to “chew something over.” Do not be fooled into thinking that sheep think deeply. I am pretty sure they do not.
5. How much does a sheep cost?
How long is a piece of string? The most expensive sheep ever sold was a Texel in 2020. He was named Double Diamond and sold for $490,000.
I can assure you that whilst their behaviour can be priceless, mine are closer to the £49 mark.
6. Is a lamb a baby sheep?
Yes. A lamb is a baby sheep.
Lamb is also used as the name for meat which has come from a sheep under a year old.
It does not mean that you are eating a baby sheep. That would be silly. There would be very little on it worth eating.
7. What is a male sheep called?
A male sheep is often called sweary words. Officially they are called Rams. In Scotland we tend to call them Tups. My tups all have great names, and you can meet the boys here.
8. What is the plural of sheep?
Seriously, Google? That’s a question people ask about sheep? Sheep. It’s sheep.
9. Is cruel to shear a sheep?
No. It is not cruel to shear a sheep. It is important for their welfare. Way back in time, primitive sheep would have shed their fleece. A few breeds still do. Sheep were bred for wool over the centuries by selecting the sheep that didn’t lose their wool naturally. As a result, we now have to shear most sheep.
Imagine you wore a wool coat and had to keep it on all summer. Not fun. Sheep can also get attacked by mites and lice so it is important to shear them when the weather gets warm.
Bonus – we can make yarn from their wool and sell it to pay the vet’s bills. Here is some wool you can buy! (Shameless plug)
10. Can sheep swim?
Not for long.
11. What is a group of sheep called?
A flock is the name for a group of sheep. When I have a few pet (bottle-fed) lambs I tend to call them “a guddle”.
12. What is a female sheep called?
A female sheep is generally called a ewe.
Different areas have different words for sheep at various stages of their life. For me:
- A hogg is a female sheep which is too young to go to the ram.
- A gimmer is a female sheep which is pregnant with its first lamb.
- A fully fledged ewe is a female sheep which has had a lamb.
- A witch is what I call Number 057 who escapes repeatedly and once got stuck in the only bramble in Tiree.
13. Do sheep have horns?
Most big white fluffy commercial breeds do not have horns. They have often been bred out.
A lot of the more native sheep breeds do have horns.
My Hebridean sheep all have horns – both the male and the female sheep. To date they have ripped through 3 sets of waterproof trousers, a pair of jeans and a boiler suit.
14. Can I keep sheep in my garden?
Not for long! And your roses and herbs will have seen better days by the time they depart.
It is not advisable to keep sheep in one place for a long time. They need to be able to move around and find fresh ground on a regular basis.
You also have to be registered with a whole host of Government Agencies to keep sheep, with an accompanying set of registration numbers and paperwork. There is a surprising amount of paperwork to keep sheep.
15. Can you milk sheep?
Yes, you can milk sheep. Lots of people do. Sheep’s milk is apparently very rich. I have not tried it in liquid form and do not wish to. Halloumi, on the other hand, is divine.
16. Do sheep get killed for wool?
No. Sheep get killed for meat. You can shear the same sheep for many years. It might get the occasional shaving-cut but otherwise it will be just fine.
17. Can sheep eat bread?
They can. It’s a favourite of lots of pet sheep (ones which ended up being hand-reared). Sheep have a VERY sweet tooth, and love bread and treacle and biscuits. Similar to myself.
Whether you should feed it to them is a different question. Very much in moderation and NEVER without asking the owner first.
That’s 17 questions about sheep done and dusted. What have I forgotten to mention? Post your sheep related questions in the comments and I’ll have a go at answering them!
And if you still want more sheep-related gems, you can read my nine facts about our woolly friends!