From the Wild to the Home

Since their domestication, sheep have evolved in both a physical and behavioral manner.

Physical Changes:

            Physical changes due to domestication in sheep were observed by 6000 -5000 B.C.

            Compared to wild sheep, domestic sheep have shorter leg bones.

            Even though sheep fall into the family Bovidae whose defining characteristic are horns that are never shed, there are sheep that have been bred to not have this feature.

            Domestic sheep tend to have longer, fatter tails in comparison to wild sheep. Tails function as a fat reserve for sheep.

            The development of fleeces and various coat colors are indications of human influence on sheep domestication and breeding.


Sheep and Puppy--Courtesy of USDA/APHIS

Behavioral Changes:

         In comparison to wild sheep, domestic sheep have a higher tolerance for crammed spaces.

         While wild sheep are more skittish and on edge, domestic sheep are less fearful because they are more accustomed to interactions with other animals and humans.

         Because domestic sheep are less fearful, they are more likely to be prey than wild sheep would be.

         Domestic sheep are less able to deal with adverse conditions such as significant temperature changes and and low food available than wild sheep as well.   

Click here to learn how sheep behave
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