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Sheep

SHEEP

SHEEP. If the dog is humankind's best friend, then sheep are its most ancient provider. Sheep may be the first domesticated ruminant, tamed by nomadic people in the Middle East and Asia 11,000 years ago, perhaps even before agriculture gave rise to civilization. Thousands of years before sheep appear in the writings of Abrahamic faiths, they were slaughtered for religious rituals. Neolithic farmers, who raised them for meat, herded them into Europe. Wool breeds appeared at least 8,000 years ago, in plenty of time to supply the looms of ancient Egypt and Babylon. Vikings carried sheep to Iceland. The Spanish brought them to the Americas. Today, sheep are found from the Arctic region to Australia and in the tropics from Africa to the Caribbean. Yet the world's billion sheep are a modest source of meat. Humans eat ten times as much pork as lamb and mutton. Sheep is not a forbidden food, though. It is eaten readily by Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Christians. And thanks to its global acceptance, lamb can be a gourmand's delight. Its earthy flavors blend well with the spicy seasonings of Spanish asadar, Chinese red-cooked lamb, or just the smoke of an open-pit barbecue.

Origins

Sheep, the species Ovis aries, are descended from the mouflon, an endangered wild sheep native to Asia Minor and Cyprus. The mouflon has a reddish-brown hair coat with an undercoat that is shed seasonally. Europe also has a mouflon that prefers rocky slopes of mountains and may have escaped from flocks of primitive domesticated sheep. Wild and domestic sheep and goats belong to the sub-family Caprini, which evolved ten to twenty million years ago in the mountains of Central Asia. They are in the order of mammals Artiodactyla, which means even-toed, hoofed. That order includes ruminant livestock such as cattle. Bacteria in the rumen help these animals digest cellulose in grasses. With more than two hundred domestic breeds, sheep may have the largest number of breeds that are in active commercial production.

In the United States, most sheep are eaten as lamb, animals that are less than a year old. Worldwide, much lamb, especially "spring lamb" slaughtered at three to seven months of age, is not grain fed. (In the United States, most lamb is grain fed, which gives it a milder flavor.) Lambs sold for meat usually weigh between 70 and 100 pounds, accounting for the relatively low rate of world lamb consumption as compared with other livestock. A mature market hog, for instance, is more than twice as heavy, and pigs are much more prolific. Adult female sheep, or ewes, weigh about 150 to 200 pounds while mature males, or rams, weigh about 250 to 350 pounds. Mutton, the meat of mature sheep, is more popular in Britain and Europe than in the United States.

Methods of Consumption

In the developed world, sheep are processed and slaughtered in much the same way as cattle and hogs, in assembly-line, refrigerated packing plants. But in the tropics and deserts where they are still herded by nomadic people, they offer the advantage of being small enough to be consumed in a day, eliminating the need for refrigeration.

As with other meats, lamb's fat content varies with cooking methods and the cut of lamb chosen. Lamb loin chops, which correspond to pork loin chops and New York Strip steak in beef, are slightly leaner than either the beef or pork cuts, with 9.73 grams of fat in a 100-gram cooked serving trimmed to ¼ inch fat and broiled, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data. With 2 milligrams of iron, lamb has twice as much iron as pork, and nearly as much as the 2.47 milligrams in beef. Lamb is also a good source of phosphorus and zinc.

A comparison by the American Sheep Industry Association, a trade group, shows a 3-ounce portion of lean cooked lamb leg has 7 grams of fat, equal to that in beef round, less than fresh pork ham or chicken dark meat (both with 8 grams of fat), but more than the 4 grams of fat in chicken light meat.

The consumer group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., lists lamb souvlaki at Greek restaurants as a relatively healthy food that compares favorably with other forms of red meat, at 310 calories and 11 grams of fat.

In a few less developed areas of the world, sheep are kept mainly for milk, or blood. A well-known vestige of sheep milking in the developed world is Roquefort cheese, made in France. Sheep's milk has almost twice as much fat as cow's milk (6.7 percent), but is denser in other nutrients as well, including calcium.

The main nonnutritional product of sheep is wool. Wool is one of the few fibers that will maintain body heat when wet. Wool also makes durable, fire-resistant rugs and carpets. Other widely used sheep products include skins and pelts for coats and rugs. Sheep lanolin, the purified grease that is washed from wool, is found in many cosmetics, salves, and ointments.

Nomadic Livestock with a Rich History

Archeologists have found evidence of sheep domestication from about 11,000 years ago, in northeastern Iran. Sheep bones nearly as old have been found in Palestine. A small statue of a woolly sheep from about 6,000 b.c.e. that was found in Iraq shows that the development of wool breeds is also ancient. By 6,000 years ago, Egyptians and Babylonians were weaving spun wool into fabric.

Sheep appear in early religious and mythological writing and history. In Ancient Egypt, the ram was the symbol of several gods. In Greek mythology Jason pursued the Golden Fleece. The Abraham of the Bible and Torah sacrificed a ram instead of his son. Long before agriculture gave rise to civilization, human hunting cultures seemed to have worshiped animals. The 30,000-year-old paintings of animals at the Chauvet Cave in France include the ibex, a wild relative of goats. Perhaps because sheep were domesticated early, their slaughter became ritualized in religious ceremonies.

Sheep breeds have outlasted civilizations. The Merino, which has come to dominate high-quality wool production today in Australia, the world's top wool exporter, may date to the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius in the first century c.e. Many in the sheep industry believe that the breed was developed then in what is now Spain when breeders crossed the Roman Taren-tine breed with the Laodician sheep of Asia Minor. When the Romans reached Britain, other sheep breeds were already there. The Romans built Britain's first woolen mill in Winchester in about 50 c.e. In the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, both Britain and Spain dominated wool production. In Spain, selling Merino sheep without the permission of the king was a crime punishable by death.

Spanish monarchs did allow explorers to bring Merinos to the New World. The Navajo sheep in the United States and the Criollo of Latin America are their descendants. When slaves were brought to the Americas, African sheep breeds adapted to hot climates came with them. These breeds have a coat of shorter hair and do not produce wool. The West African Dwarf type of sheep gave rise to several tropical American breeds, including the Barbados Blackbelly. The Tunis breed of North Africa was two thousand years old when George Washington imported some to rebuild his own sheep flock after his presidency.

Sheep have long been herded by nomads in Central Asia. The portable dwellings, or yurts, of Mongolia are made of wool felt. In the fourth century b.c.e., the Chinese called the hinterlands of central Asia "the land of felt."

In contrast to tropical sheep, primitive sheep breeds from northern Europe have long outer wool coats of up to 15 inches in length as well as a soft inner coat. The Icelandic sheep, brought to Iceland by the Vikings in 874 c.e., are the purest breed of this type.

Modern sheep production began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with two important developments. One is that the Spanish monopoly ended when Napoléon invaded Spain, making Merino sheep widely accessible. The other was the development of meatier breeds of wooled sheep in Britain in the eighteenth century by Robert Bakewell, an English agriculturalist who revolutionized the breeding of sheep and cattle through selection and inbreeding. At a time when wool prices were depressed, Bakewell began to select Leicester sheep that were heavier and stockier. This helped feed Britain's Industrial Revolution. Sheep were not herded long distances in Britain as they were in Spain, so the British Isles developed many more local breeds. Other breeders followed Bakewell's example of choosing breeds that have a dual purpose. In the United States, dual purpose and wooled breeds that excel in meat production are preferred in the eastern half of the country. The finer wool breeds are preferred for the western range because they are easier to herd.

Though adaptable and hardy, sheep are more difficult to raise in the humid tropics. They are scarce in Southeast Asia and the islands of the South Pacific and even northern tropical Australia.

Effects of Domestication

Domestication has changed sheep so much that they are almost helpless in the wild, according to animal scientists M. E. Ensminger and R. O. Parker, who in Sheep and Goat Science note that "domesticated sheep of all breeds are universally timid and defenseless and the least intelligent and least teachable of all the domestic four-footed animal. . . . Unlike other farm animals, they are unable to return to a wild life" (p. 4).

The Merino are among the most easily herded sheep. For centuries in Spain they were driven to northern pastures in the spring and back south in the fall. This resulted in selection for ease of herding. More primitive breeds remain more independent. Sheep farmers in Iceland often lose a few of their Icelandic sheep when driving them from summer mountain pastures to lowlands. One unusual type of sheep in Hawaii, the Feral Hawaiian, mostly of Merino stock, has confounded the experts by actually going wild. It was introduced in 1791 when Captain George Vancouver visited the islands.

Trends in Sheep Production

Britain and Spain once dominated sheep production and trade. In the early twenty-first century, dominance has shifted to former British colonies of the Southern Hemisphere. Australia ranks first in wool exports. Second-ranked New Zealand is a big exporter of carpet wool, mainly from its Romney breed, a native of English lowlands. Both nations are also top exporters of lamb. At the end of the twentieth century, Australia had 115.8 million head of sheep, slightly behind the world's largest flock, 131 million head in China (where they are mainly for domestic use). New Zealand was third with 45 million sheep, followed by South Africa and Turkey. China is a leading importer of wool for its mills.

By contrast, the United States produced only about 7 million sheep and lambs in 2001, a sharp decline from the beginning of the twentieth century, when the United States had nearly ten times as many sheep61 million head. U.S. wool production has fallen from 260 million pounds to 49 million in a century.

American agricultural practices and the rise of industrial fibersplasticcontributed to this decline. The industry survived in Great Britain, partly due to European Union subsidies. In the United States, government subsidies rewarded eastern U.S. crop farmers who grew corn and soybeans instead of those raising small marginal flocks. Corn and soybeans then flowed to large, mechanized complexes for hog and poultry, which convert grain to protein faster than can sheep. In the western range land, the federal government dropped wool subsidies in 1996 only to reinstate them in 2002 in an attempt to help a struggling industry. Only about 1 percent of the meat consumed by Americans was lamb. By 2000 per capita lamb consumption in the United States was less than 1 pound per year, compared to an estimated 221 pounds per year of all red meats and poultry. Growing popularity of ethnic foods, along with immigration from Mediterranean nations that relish lamb, ensured a remaining niche market for this meat. But outside of large cities, many consumers had to hunt in grocery store meat cases for a package or two of lamb chops or perhaps a single leg of lamb.

Reasons for the decline in U.S. sheep production seem to be both economic and cultural. Competition from plastic fibers, including polyester fleece, which has some of the desirable properties of wool, has hurt demand for a key product from sheep. A booming economy in the late twentieth century contributed to the already tough task of finding workers willing to take on the solitary task of herding sheep on the western range.

American taste for lamb may have been hurt by bad experiences of American servicemen and women during World War II, who sometimes ate old mutton from Australia and New Zealand and mistook it for lamb. But the main factor is undoubtedly economic. With a small market for U.S. wool, and therefore lamb, the meat has become an exotic, more expensive specialty food. A similar decline has taken place in Canada.

North America has also faced stiff competition from New Zealand and from the Australians, who rival the Spaniards as finicky producers of fine wool, developing several strains of Merino breeds best adapted to their climate. Both Australia and New Zealand offer longer grazing seasons than the northern United States and Canada, giving those nations another advantage. New Zealand farmers can graze their sheep from eight to twelve months of the year and are world leaders in developing microchip-controlled electric fences to allow the most efficient use of pastures. A flock is moved into a small paddock where the sheep graze all of the available forage before moving into another small field. New Zealanders can raise twenty-five sheep on a hectare of land (2.47 acres) with this method.

Unlike American and European farmers, Australia's and New Zealand's sheep producers receive no large government subsidies, which keeps their farm economies lean, preventing artificial inflation of land prices that boost costs. As the twenty-first century began, both nations had an exporting advantage of lower-valued currencies compared to the American dollar.

Even so, the returns in 2002 on sheep production in Australia lagged behind those enjoyed by U.S. grain farmers, and in New Zealand, where there are a dozen sheep for every person, the sheep population has declined from a peak of 70.3 million in 1982 to about 45 million, "due to declining profits compared to other types of farming," explains a wool products website, Sheep World.

The biggest challenge to sheep may still be plastic. Australian researchers are looking for new ways to turn wool into a fabric without weavinga response to a 10 percent annual growth in "nonwovens," synthetic fabrics used in car seats, home draperies, and disposable wipes. Ironically, felt, the original nonwoven material, was made from sheep's fleece before spinning and weaving were invented. If the wool industry can compete successfully with the plastics industry, the availability of lamb as a food might increase.

A Case for Saving Sheep

From a gastronomic perspective alone, it would be a shame if sheep became extinct. Chefs Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly argue in The Complete Meat Cookbook that lamb's flavor "makes this animal a favorite in cuisines all over the world. . . . No meat marries better with the pungent flavors of garlic, mustard, rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory and fennel, to name just a few" (p. 427). Among the world's most notable lamb dishes are Moroccan lemon tagine ; kabobs (called souvlaki in Greece; sis kebabi in Turkey); and baked leg of lamb asadar from Spain (in Spain a whole lamb is roasted in a wood-fired brick oven).

Do-it-yourself gourmands should be aware of pitfalls. To avoid lamb's hard fat, which some people find disagreeable when it becomes cold, trim as much fat as is possible from lamb before cooking and be sure to keep lamb dishes hot at the table.

Other practical reasons for saving sheep include environmental ones. Although sheep were associated with some of the first human environmental degradationsoil erosion associated with overgrazingproperly managed, sheep can improve grasslands and range land. They will eat weedy plants that cattle ignore, including sagebrush, leafy spurge, and tansy ragwort. Some ranchers and wheat farmers consider them more effective at controlling plant pests than herbicides.

One serious problem that could instantly make sheep an unwanted food source is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. Sheep may have been the indirect source of this dreaded affliction, known as mad cow disease. The incurable disease literally turns a cow's brain spongy, causing a progressive dementia that kills the animal. In Britain, rendered sheep, goat, and cattle not fit for human use were added to cattle feed to boost the protein content. Some scientists believe that a related disease in sheep, scrapie, somehow crossed the "species barrier" when the rendered sheep were fed to cattle in the 1980s. Scrapie, a rare but very old disease of sheep, has never been known to infect humans, but BSE apparently has killed Britons who ate infected beef. This family of diseases, which also includes chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, is poorly understood. The infectious agent is a prion, a type of protein that has no genetic material, like a virus or bacteria. Prions are extremely resistant to heat and antiseptics and can survive in soil for years. Yet certain types of sheep seem to have a greater genetic disposition to scrapie than others.

European and British health officials are concerned that sheep in that part of the world may also have been infected with BSE, rather than normal scrapie. If so, it would have the potential to make European lamb unsafe to eat. Even though scrapie itself is not deadly to humans, the possible confusion of BSE in sheep with scrapie has led the United States to start a scrapie eradication program in domestic sheep. New Zealand and Australia are believed to be free of the scrapie as well as BSE.

Finally, the loss of sheep and lambs to competition from plastic fabrics and more industrialized meats would be a blow to the collective memory of human history and tradition. The Bible has more references to lambs and sheep than to any other animal. The blood of the lamb protected Jews during the first Passover. Muslims break the month-long fast of Ramadan with a meal of lamb and rice. And to Christians, the lamb is the symbol of Christ sacrificed on the cross.

As a result of the efforts of rare breed preservationists, hobbyists, and home wool spinners, it is unlikely that sheep will ever become completely extinct, even if their long-term commercial success faces challenges.

See also Australia and New Zealand ; Christianity ; Dairy Products ; Food Safety ; Greece and Crete ; Herding ; Islam ; Judaism ; Lamb Stew ; Livestock Production ; Mammals ; Meat ; Religion and Food .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aidells, Bruce, and Denis Kelly. The Complete Meat Cookbook. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Dohner, Janet Vorwald. The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001.

Ensminger, M. E., and R. O. Parker. Sheep & Goat Science. Animal Agriculture Series. 5th ed. Danville, Ill.: Interstate Printers, 1986.

Gatenby, Ruth M. Sheep Production in the Tropics and Sub-Tropics. New York: Longman, 1986.

Harris, Marvin. Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.

Sheep World Web site. Available at http://www.sheepworld.co.nz.SheepFarming.htm.

Simmons, Paula. Raising Sheep the Modern Way. Pownal, Vt.: Storey, 1989.

United States Department of Agriculture. Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 14. 2001. Available at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/SR14/reports/sr14page.htm.

Dan Looker

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Sheep

SHEEP

SHEEP. Sixteenth-century European colonists introduced sheep into the Americas. They accompanied the Spanish to Mexico, while the English brought sheep to Virginia and Massachusetts. They came along with the Dutch to New York and with the Swedes to New Jersey. These animals were unimproved, however, because farm-ers had yet to begin selective breeding of their sheep.

In colonial times, famers raised sheep as a part of self-sufficient agriculture to supply wool for homespun clothing and not for commercial purposes. Because of wolves, improper care, and British competition, the number of sheep remained relatively few and the quality and quantity of the wool poor. The industry improved somewhat during the American Revolution but slumped after peace and the resumption of British trade.

The first decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a marked change. Two events of importance occurred: the introduction of merino sheep and the exclusion of British competitors from the American market by the various nonintercourse acts and the War of 1812. In 1801–1802, the first merinos arrived from France and Spain. In 1807, with the passage of the Embargo Act, native mills increased, wool prices skyrocketed, and the demand for fine-wool sheep became insatiable. A merino craze followed. Merino wool sold for $2 a pound, and the early importers sold sheep for $1,000 a head. In the midst of this craze, the Napoleonic armies broke the Spanish restrictions on the exportation of merinos, and between 1808 and 1811, importers brought approximately 24,000 merinos into the United States. Sheep raising had entered its commercial phase.

After 1815 British woolen importations again depressed the industry. Soon, however, the growth of the factory system and the tariff of 1828 revived it. Woolen manufactures doubled in a decade, the price of wool went up, and eastern flocks increased tremendously. In the 1830s, 60 percent of American sheep were in New England and the middle Atlantic states. After 1840, because of westward migration, improved transportation facilities, easy access to cheap western land, and an increase in the prices of foodstuffs, the center of sheep raising shifted westward. By 1850 it was in the Ohio Valley.

The Civil War produced a second merino craze. After the war, the type of sheep raised in the United States underwent improvement through importations of European breeds and selective breeding. Sheep raising continued to expand west to the Rocky Mountains and Pacific coast states. Farmers in this region at first concentrated on wool production, while those of the eastern United States, under the stimulus of growing urban markets, shifted to mutton production. Eastern sheep farmers turned to new English mutton breeds, including the Leicester and Shropshire. After 1890 sheep growers of the western United States began to place more emphasis on dual-purpose sheep, and mutton production and lamb feeding developed in this area as well.

The importance of western states in the raising of sheep continued into the twentieth century, and by 1935, 60 percent of all the sheep in the United States were in that region. The total number of sheep raised throughout the country reached a peak of 51.8 million that same year. By 1973 the number of sheep had declined to 17.7 million. Of these, only 48 percent were coming from the western states, which represented a shift away from the region. By 2000 the number had fallen even more steeply to only 7 million, but the western United States had regained its dominance of the industry, with Texas leading the nation in both number of sheep-raising operations and animals. Currently, 80 percent of sheep in the United States are raised for consumption, but because few Americans regularly eat lamb or mutton, Mexico imports the vast majority of the meat. Nonetheless, the burgeoning Hispanic and Middle Eastern population in the United States, which does frequently consume lamband mutton, is increasing the domestic demand for the product.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carlson, Paul Howard. Texas Woollybacks: The Range Sheep and Goat Industry. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982.

Crockett, Norman L. The Woolen Industry of the Midwest. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.

Gemming, Elizabeth. Wool Gathering: Sheep Raising in Old New England. New York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, 1979.

Miller, Char, ed. Fluid Arguments: Five Centuries of Western Water Conflict. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001.

Wagner, Frederic H. Predator Control and the Sheep Industry: The Role of Science in Policy Formation. Claremont, Calif.: Regina Books, 1988.

Robert G.Dunbar/a. e.

See alsoAgriculture ; Food and Cuisines ; Livestock Industry ; Meatpacking ; Tariff ; Textiles ; Wool Growing and Manufacture .

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sheep

sheep, common name for many species of wild and domesticated ruminant mammals of the genus Ovis of the Bovidae, or cattle, family. The male is called a ram (if castrated it is a wether), the female is called a ewe, and their offspring is a lamb. Wild sheep, found in mountainous parts of Asia, North America, and the Mediterranean region, are agile rock climbers with large, spiraling horns. They do not bear wool. Among those species are the Asian argali, the Barbary sheep, or aoudad, of North Africa, and the North American bighorn, or Rocky Mountain sheep, found from SW Canada to N Mexico.

Sheep were first domesticated c.7,000 years ago, and the first use of their fleeces for wool is dated at c.4000 BC Descendants of Roman flocks figured in the evolution of the Merino type in Spain. The present-day breeds of domesticated sheep—which vary greatly because they were developed for different purposes and environments—are all thought to be derived chiefly from the wild mouflon of Sardinia and Corsica and from the urial of Asia. Sheep are bred for their wool, meat (mutton or lamb, according to age), skins, and, in certain parts of Europe and the Middle East, their milk, from which cheese is made. They are found mostly in temperate climates and thrive on roughages. Most sheep mate in the fall, and the lambs, born five months later, are called spring lambs. Among the important breeds are the Columbia, Cotswold, Dorset, Hampshire, Karakul, Leicester, Lincoln, Merino, Oxford, Rambouillet, Shropshire, Southdown, and Suffolk sheep.

Sheep are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.

See M. E. Ensminger, Sheep and Wool Science (4th ed. 1970); N. D. May, The Anatomy of the Sheep (3d ed. 1970); publications of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

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sheep

sheep the sheep is proverbial for its tendency to follow others in the flock, and for its timidity and inoffensiveness.

In biblical allusions, the people of Israel are likened to sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:6); in Acts 8:32, the words ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter’ describe the death of Jesus.
count sheep count imaginary sheep jumping over a fence one by one in an attempt to send oneself to sleep.
separate the sheep from the goats divide the good from the bad, with biblical allusion to the parable of the Last Judgement in Matthew 25:32–3.

See also better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep, black sheep, may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, wolf in sheep's clothing.

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sheep

sheep / shēp/ • n. (pl. same) 1. a domesticated ruminant (Ovis aries) of the cattle family with a thick woolly coat and (typically only in the male) curving horns. It is kept in flocks for its wool or meat, and is proverbial for its tendency to follow others in the flock. ∎  a wild mammal related to this, such as the argali and bighorn. 2. a person too easily influenced or led. PHRASES: count sheep count imaginary sheep jumping over a fence one by one in an attempt to send oneself to sleep.

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sheep

sheep Ruminants of the genus Ovis, and those of the less numerous genera Pseudois and Ammotragus. Domestic sheep, O. aries, are now bred for wool, fur (karakul), and meat. Wild species are found in the mountains of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. All are of the Family Bovidae.

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sheep

sheep OE. (Angl.) sċēp, (WS.) sċǣp, sċēap = OS. skāp (Du. schaap), OHG. scāf (G. schaf) :- WGmc. *skǣpa, of which no cogns. are known.
Hence sheepish (-ISH1) XII.

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sheep

sheep (Ovis) See BOVIDAE.

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sheep

sheepasleep, beep, bleep, cheap, cheep, creep, deep, heap, Jeep, keep, leap, neap, neep, peep, reap, seep, sheep, skin-deep, sleep, steep, Streep, sweep, veep, weep •slagheap • scrapheap • antheap •housekeep • upkeep • chimney sweep

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Sheep

SHEEP

In the Bible the term ẓon indicates both sheep and *goats (Lev. 1:10; 3:6; et al.); only once does it refer to sheep alone, as distinct from izzim ("goats"; i Sam. 25:2). In the Mishnah both are referred to as behemah dakkah ("small cattle"). The most common strain of sheep in Israel is the broad-tailed sheep Ovis vignei platyura, derived from the desert sheep Ovis vignei (orientalis), domesticated during the Middle Stone Age. The bodily construction and way of life of this strain is adapted to the conditions of existence in dry regions such as Ereẓ Israel and its vicinity. The wool, particularly of the lambs, is usually white (Ps. 147:16; Isa. 1:18). The body of most of the sheep native to Ereẓ Israel is white; only the head and feet are brown. Some of the sheep, however, also have brown spots on other parts of the body. These can be born also to parents with white fleeces, and Jacob, when tending Laban's sheep, asked to receive as wages "all the dark ones among the sheep" born from white parents; a modest-seeming request to which Laban agreed (Gen. 30:32–37; see *Biology). In the local breed some are raised for meat and others for wool (cf. ii Kings 3:4). The ewe has no horns, while the ram has curved ones (cf. Gen. 22:13). This shape of horn also appears on ancient drawings. From it was fashioned the *shofar of "rounded ram's horns" (rh 3:4). As stated above, the Israel sheep is distinguished by its broad and heavy tail (in the male it can reach a weight of 20 pounds, and is mentioned several times in the Bible (Ex. 29:22; Lev. 3:9; et al.)). The tail fat serves as stock when there is a shortage of pasture, particularly in summer.

The sheep was a main source of meat, hence the expression "sheep for slaughter" often found in the Bible (Isa. 53:7; et al.). Its milk was also of importance (Deut. 32:14), while the wool was a basic necessity of life (Hos. 2:7). Its skin was valuable, being used for shoes, clothing, and hangings (Ex. 25:5). The fertility of the sheep is mentioned as a blessing (Ps. 144:13). The ewes normally gave birth to one lamb, but under favorable conditions they had twins – the "paired" of Song of Songs 6:6. The season of conception depends upon the state of the pasture. With the early ones, the primiparous, it begins in Adar; others conceive later. The early ones are the mekusharot ("stronger") of Scripture and the later ones the atufim ("feebler," cf. Gen. 30:41–42). The period of gestation of five months is mentioned in the Talmud (rh 8a). The weak and innocent sheep, the potential victims of beasts of prey, symbolize in prophetic parable and allegory the Israelite nation and its fate (Jer. 23:2–3; Ezek. 34:6–22; et al.).

Many terms for sheep occur in the Bible. A male in its first year is called keves (Lev. 12:6), the female, kavsah (Lev. 14:10), kivsah (ii Sam. 12:3), or kisbah (Lev. 5:6). The adult male is ayil, in Aramaic dekhar ("male"; Ezra 6:9). Ayil meshullash is one three years old (Gen. 15:9). The mature female is raḥel (Isa. 53:7; et al.). Taleh is used for the young of both sheep and goats (Isa. 40:11); the fully grown sheep is the seh (Gen. 30:32; Ex. 12:5). A prime species of sheep for meat was called karim. These came chiefly from the unpopulated border regions: Bashan (Deut. 32:14), Kedar (Ezek. 27:21), Moab (ii Kings 3:4), Edom (Isa. 34:6), and Amalek (i Sam. 15:9). With the growth of the Jewish population of Israel from the beginning of the period of the kings, the pasture areas gradually diminished, being crowded out by agriculture. During the time of the Mishnah, when agriculture in Israel reached its peak of development, a regulation was enacted that small cattle were not to be reared in the populated part of the country, but only in desert areas and in Syria (bk 7:7), as well as in its forests (bk 81a). During that era the shepherd who was suspected of penetrating into agricultural areas to pasture his flock was treated with contempt (Sanh. 26b). At the close of the talmudic period, after the destruction of Israel's agriculture, the land was once more converted into extensive grazing areas.

bibliography:

G. Dalman, Arbeit, 6 (1939, repr. 1964), 170ff.; S. Bodenheimer, Ha-Ḥai be-Arẓot ha-Mikra, 2 vols. (1949–56), index, s.v.Keves; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 17; idem, Ha-Ḥakla'ut be-Ereẓ Yisrael bi-Tekufat ha-Mishnah ve-ha-Talmud (1963), 112–5; idem, in: Teva va-Areẓ, 7 (1964/65), 330–7. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 296.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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Sheep

Sheep

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Sheep are ruminant members of the Bovidae family. They belong to the genus Ovis, which contains three species, Ovis musimon, Ovis orientalis, and Ovis aries.

Sheep evolved about 2.5 million years ago. They were the first animals to become domesticated, approximately 9,000 to 11,000 years ago. Ovis musimon, the European moufflon, is still found wild in Sardinia and Corsica and 0. orientalis, the Asiatic mouflon, also roams freely in Asia Minor and the Caucasus. There are specimens of these wild species in many zoos. The European mouflon is horned, with a massive circular rack and its wool coat hidden under the long guard hairs. The rams will weigh up to 600 lb (270 kg), as heavy as some of the smaller cattle breeds. The Asiatic mouflon is similar in appearance to the European mouflon, but weighs one-third less. Over the years, the domesticated sheep has undergone so many changes through controlled breeding that it is now its own species, Ovis aries.

Sheep domestication and the harvesting of wool is an ancient practice. Wool fabrics have been found in pre-historic ruins 10,000 years old. The beginnings of sheep domestication seem to center in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey around 6,000 BC; then the practice was spread by the Phoenicians to Africa and Spain. By 4,000 BC, domesticated sheep had appeared in China and the British Isles. On an uninhabited isle near St. Kilda in the Scottish Hebrides is a flock of primitive sheep called Soay sheep, which are survivors of the Bronze

Age. They exhibit characteristics halfway between the mouflon and modern breeds, including brown coloring, massive curved horns, and kempy wool. The neighboring sheep farmers pay an annual visit to this isle, where they round up the sheep, shear and cull the flock, then depart for another year, leaving the flock to fend for themselves.

Spanish farmers developed the Merino breed of sheep in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the fineness of its wool is unsurpassed even today. In the seventeenth century English farmer Robert Bakewell, using his newly discovered breeding methods, developed the Southdown and the Leicester breeds and this led the way to improvements in other breeds. Because most sheep breeders in England were small farmers, they created several distinctive breeds to meet requirements of their locales and to satisfy the local wool markets. Some of the breeds were developed for the quality of their meat, some for their fine wool, some for their coarse wool (for carpets, etc.), some for their ability to produce milk, and others for their hardiness.

The Merino was so outstanding that Spain refused to export the breed in an attempt to keep its monopoly. Louis XVI of France asked for and received a flock of 366 Merino sheep and used them to build his own breed fine-wool-producing sheep, the Rambouillet. Both the Merino and Rambouillet have since been the basis for upgrading the qualities of wool of other breeds.

The Finnish Landrace breed is noted for its tendency to have a litter of young rather than a single lamb. The Russian Romanov also has multiple births, and breeders are now importing these into the United States, hoping to incorporate this trait into the established types. The Merino, prized for its wool, does not reproduce as successfully as other breeds, so a program to interbreed the Merino with the Landrace or Romanov could benefit both breeds.

In the United States, sheep are not commonly thought of as milk producers, but there are many cultures that commonly use sheeps milk for drinking, cheese-making, and butter. Worldwide, sheep milk production was estimated at 9.04 million tons in 1988. Sheep milk is much richer than cows milk. Cows milk contains 36% butterfat, and ewes milk contains 69%. A single ewe produces an average of one pint of milk per day.

French Roquefort cheese is made from ewes milk. In the United States, a similar cheese is made from cows milk and is called blue cheese. The blue streaks are caused by bacterium Penicillium roqueforti. Feta, originally from Greece, is also made from sheeps milk and is produced in several countries around the Mediterranean. Numerous local brands of white cheese made from sheeps milk are also found in the Balkans.

Sheep skins were the source of parchment from around 600 BC through the Middle Ages. The invention of printing, though, spurred the need for and manufacture of paper substitutes. Sheep parchment was one of the materials onto which the Dead Sea Scrolls were lettered, as well as most of the illuminated manuscripts of the monasteries. It is still used on occasions for degrees or meritorious citations, though true parchment is most often replaced by a paper product that resembles it.

Next to meat and wool, probably the most noteworthy of sheep products is the Scottish haggis, the main course for festive meals. It is a sausage like dish made of diced sheeps heart, liver, and lungs mixed with turnips and oatmeal, all stuffed into a sheeps stomach and baked. When ready to serve a bagpiper precedes it into the dining hall. The sheeps blood, gathered during the slaughter, is the main ingredient in black pudding or a beverage. Soap and tallow come from the hard white fat, and some bones became shuttle bobbins in the weaving process. The intestines are the source of catgut.

Christopher Columbus brought sheep, horses, and cattle to the New World on his second, third, and fourth voyages, as did many explorers who followed him. These animals served as the basic breeding stock for the missions that Spain was setting up in the New World. A century later, sheep numbered in the hundreds of thousands in Mexico and the Southwest, and their numbers continued to increase in spite of predators, Indians, and other depredations.

The Bighorn sheep is native to North America, but had no part in the development of the domesticated sheep business. In fact, the sheep which were imported from Europe carried and spread diseases

KEY TERMS

Clip The fleece shorn from a single sheep or a whole flock.

Grade The fineness or coarseness of the fleece. Can also refer to flocks or individuals, a grade animal denotes lower quality.

Kempy wool Guard hairs mixed into the wool, an undesirable trait.

Ram Male sheep.

that decimated their wild cousins. Predators such as coyotes, eagles, and mountain lions also take their toll on wild as well as on domestic sheep populations. Recently, it was discovered that the presence of llamas, donkeys, and cattle in the flock will help prevent predation. Certain breeds of dogs that are raised with the flock also protect the sheep by attacking predators.

Most of the sheep flocks in the western United States carry Rambouillet and Merino blood, as they are often bred for their wool. It is the custom to castrate the ram lambs in these flocks and to use purebred rams from outside the flock to upgrade the wool. These males are retained for three to five years for shearing, and when the quality or quantity of their coat begins to decrease, they are sent to market and sold for meat.

Ewes are kept longer than the rams, up to seven or eight years, since they also produce a lamb every year in addition to their wool. A single lamb is the norm, but, through selective breeding, the farmer can sometimes achieve a larger lamb crop. Lambs bred for meat come from smaller farm flocks in the eastern and midwestern parts of the country.

Wool production in the United States has steadily declined since World War II, in spite of government subsidies, and now about 75% of the countrys wool is imported. Australia produces about 25% of the worlds wool. The development of cheaply-made synthetic fibers has greatly reduced the demand of the natural fibers such as wool.

The Merino and the improved British breeds constitute the majority of the modern breeds. Nearly all have a white fleece, as brown or black wool will not dye as readily. Wool is graded depending on the quality and length of the fibers. The blood system, most commonly used, grades the fleece as Fine, 1/2, 3/8 1/4, Low, and Braid.

See also Livestock.

Resources

BOOKS

Clark, James L. The Great Arc of the Wild Sheep. Reprint ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

Fournier, Nola, and Jane Fournier. In Sheeps Clothing: A Handspinners Guide to Wool. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1995.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walkers Mammals of the World. 6th ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Shackleton, D.M., ed. Wild Sheep and Goats and Their Relatives: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1997.

Wilson, D.E., and D. Reeder. Mammal Species of the World. 3rd ed. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2005.

J. Gordon Miller

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Sheep

Sheep

Sheep are ruminant members of the Bovidae family. They belong to the genus Ovis, which contains three species , Ovis musimon, Ovis orientalis, and Ovis aries.

Sheep evolved about 2,500,000 years ago. They were the first animals to become domesticated, approximately 9,000 to 10,000 b.c. Ovis musimon, the European moufflon, is still found wild in Sardinia and Corsica and 0. orientalis , the Asiatic moufflon, also roams freely in Asia Minor and the Caucasus. There are specimens of these wild species in many zoos. The European moufflon is horned, with a massive circular rack and its wool coat hidden under the long guard hairs. The rams will weigh up to 600 lb (270 kg), as heavy as some of the smaller cattle breeds. The Asiatic moufflon is similar in appearance to the European moufflon, but weighs one-third less. Over the years, the domesticated sheep has undergone so many changes through controlled breeding that it is now its own species, Ovis aries.

Sheep domestication and the harvesting of wool is an ancient practice. Wool fabrics have been found in prehistoric ruins 10,000 years old. The beginnings of sheep domestication seem to center in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey around 6,000 b.c.; then the practice was spread by the Phoenicians to Africa and Spain. By 4,000 b.c. domesticated sheep had appeared in China and the British Isles. On an uninhabited isle near St. Kilda in the Scottish Hebrides is a flock of primitive sheep called Soay sheep, which are survivors of the Bronze age. They exhibit the characteristics halfway between the moufflon and modern breeds, including brown coloring, massive curved horns and kempy wool. The neighboring sheep farmers pay an annual visit to this isle, where they round up the sheep, shear and cull the flock, then depart for another year, leaving the flock to fend for themselves.

Spanish farmers developed the Merino breed of sheep in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the fineness of its wool is unsurpassed even today. In the seventeenth century Robert Bakewell, in England, using his newly discovered breeding methods developed the Southdown and the Leicester, led the way to improvements in other breeds. Because most sheep breeders in England were small farmers, they created several distinctive breeds to meet requirements of the their locals and to satisfy the local wool markets. So some of the breeds were developed for the quality of their meat, some for their fine wool, some for their coarse wool (for carpets, etc.), some for their ability to produce milk, and others for their hardiness.

The Merino was so outstanding that Spain refused to export the breed in an attempt to keep its monopoly. Louis XVI of France asked for and received a flock of 366 and used them to build his own breed of fine wools, the Rambouillet. Both the Merino and Rambouillet have since been the basis for upgrading the qualities of wool for other breeds.

The Finnish Landrace breed is noted for its tendency to have a litter of young rather than a single lamb. The Russian Romanov also has multiple births, and breeders are now importing these into the United States, hoping to incorporate this trait into the established types. The Merino, prized for its wool, does not reproduce as successfully as other breeds, so a program to interbreed the Merino with the Landrace or Romanov would benefit both breeds.

In the United States, sheep are not commonly thought of as milk producers, but there are many cultures that commonly use the milk for drinking, cheese making, and butter. Worldwide, sheep milk production was estimated at 9.04 million tons in 1988. Sheep milk is much richer than cow's milk, though; cow's milk contains 3-6% butterfat, and ewe's milk contains 6-9%. A single ewe produces an average of one pint of milk per day.

French Roquefort cheese is made from ewe's milk. In the United States, a similar cheese is made from cow's milk and is called blue cheese. The blue streaks are caused by bacterium Penicillium roqueforti. Feta, originally from Greece, is also made from sheep's milk and is produced in several countries around the Mediterranean. The very popular Akawi comes from the area of Acre in Israel. Numerous local brands of white cheese are also found in the Balkans.


Sheep skins were the source of parchment from around 600 b.c. through the Middle Ages. The invention of printing , though, spurred the need for and manufacture of paper substitutes. Sheep parchment was one of the materials onto which the Dead Sea Scrolls were lettered, as well as most of the illuminated manuscripts of the monasteries. It is still used on occasions for degrees or meritorious citations, though true parchment is most often replaced by a paper product that resembles it.

Next to meat and wool, probably the most noted of sheep products is the Scottish haggis, the main course for festive times. It is a mixture of diced heart , liver, and lungs with turnips and oatmeal, all stuffed into a sheep's stomach and baked. When ready to serve a bagpiper precedes it into the dining hall. The sheep's blood , gathered during the slaughter, is the main ingredient in black pudding or a beverage. Soap and tallow come from the hard white fat , and some bones became shuttle bobbins in the weaving process. The intestines are the source of catgut.

Christopher Columbus brought over sheep, horses , and cattle on his second, third, and fourth voyages to the New World, as did many explorers who followed him. These animals served as the basic breeding stock for the missions that Spain was setting up in the New World. A century after, sheep numbered in the hundreds of thousands in Mexico and the Southwest, and their numbers continued to increase in spite of predators, Indians and other setbacks.

The Bighorn sheep is native to North America , but had no part in the development of the domesticated sheep business. In fact, the sheep which were imported from Europe carried and spread diseases that decimated their wild cousins. Predators such as the coyote, the eagle, and mountain lion also that take their toll on wild sheep populations. Recently, it was discovered that the presence of llamas, donkeys , and cattle in the flock will help prevent predation. Certain breeds of dogs that are raised with the flock also protect the sheep by attacking predators.

Most of the sheep flocks on the western United States ranges carry Rambouillet and Merino blood, as they are often bred for their wool. It is the custom to castrate the ram lambs in these flocks and to use purebred rams from outside the flock to upgrade the wool. These males are retained for three to five years for shearing, and when the quality or quantity of their coat begins to decrease, they are sent to market and sold for meat.

Ewes are kept longer than the rams, up to seven or eight years, as they also produce a lamb every year in addition to their wool. A single lamb is the norm, but through selective breeding the farmer can sometimes achieve a larger lamb crop. Lambs bred for meat come from smaller farm flocks in the eastern and midwestern areas of the country.

Wool production in the United States has steadily declined since World War II, in spite of government subsidies, and now about 75% of the country's wool is imported. Australia produces about 25% of the world's wool. The development of cheaply-made synthetic fibers has greatly reduced the demand of the natural fibers such as wool.

The Merino and the improved British breeds constitute the majority of the modern breeds. Nearly all have a white fleece, as brown or black wool will not dye as readily. Wool is graded depending on the quality and length of the fibers. The blood system, most commonly used, grades the fleece as Fine, 1/2, 3/8 1/4, Low, and Braid.

See also Livestock.

J. Gordon Miller

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Clip

—The fleece shorn from a single sheep or a whole flock.

Grade

—The fineness or coarseness of the fleece. Can also refer to flocks or individuals, a grade animal denotes lower quality.

Kempy wool

—Guard hairs mixed into the wool, an undesirable trait.

Ram

—Male sheep.

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