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Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Class Information
Class Mammalia
Order Information
Order Artiodactyla
Sub-order Ruminantia
Family Information
Family Bovidae
Sub-family Caprinae
Genus Information
Genus Ovis
Species Information
Species O. aries (Domestic sheep)
O. canadensis (Bighorn sheep)
O. dalli (Dall Sheep)
O. musimon or
O. ammon musimon (European Mouflon)
O. nivicola (Snow sheep)
O. orientalis (Asiatic Mouflon)
O. vignei (Urial)
O. ammon (Argali)
Population statistics

Sheep are woolly herbivorous ungulates, that are farmed in many places for their wool, their fleeces, their meat and sometimes their milk. Male sheep are called rams or tups - unless castrated in which case they are called wethers. Female sheep are ewes. Juvenile sheep are lambs.

While traditionally thought to be of limited intelligence there are wild (as yet unproven) stories of sheep being able to navigating obstacles designed to hinder their movements.

Sheep farming is particularly important in New Zealand, Australia and many parts of the United Kingdom, especially Wales and the wild borderlands of Scotland.

Wild Sheep

Wild varieties of sheep are found in many mountainous regions worldwide. Varieties include the bighorn sheep and Dall Sheep of North America, the mouflon of Sardinia and Corsica, the Marco polo sheep of Afghanistan, and the aoudad of North Africa. Herds of feral sheep are also known, such as the Soay sheep of certain Scottish islands, believed to have lived wild since the Bronze Age. Herdwick sheep are unique to the English lake District, Cumbria.

Sheep in the Bible

Sheep are mentioned many times in the Bible, and Christians are frequently likened to sheep of whom God is the shepherd, most notably in Psalm 23:

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

As well as in Revelation 5:12

In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"

Jesus is sometimes likened to a lamb, as lambs were often used for sacrifices

A ram stuck in a thicket was a substitute sacrifice for Isaac in Genesis

Old and New Worlds

American cuisine is noted for the absence of lamb and mutton dishes, and sheep are not widely farmed, perhaps because the idea of a sheep ranch might be perceived as undermining the national 'frontier' self-image.

Sheep in popular culture

Sheep are often used as a metaphor for unthinking followers of any particular ideology. George Orwell used them in this way in his novel Animal Farm when the sheep could be counted on to back up the animal revolution led by the pigs by baaa-ing Four legs good, two legs bad when required.