Things to know about sheep

If you're interested in sheep, you will sooner or later come along some technical terms which are infrequently used in the colloquial speech. Furthermore, it is often hard to find these terms in dictionaries.

Therefore, here we present a small collection of terms in the hope to ease understanding. Beyond that, you'll find information about sheep.



Fourth section of the stomach of ruminants
Together with other ruminating (e. g. camels, cattle and goats) and non-ruminating (e. g. pigs) mammals, sheep are subsumed in the order Artiodactyla, as opposed to other orders of ungulates, e. g. perissodactyls.
The first phalanx of artiodactyls (thumb, big toe) is reduced, the second and fifth phalanges (index and little finger) are scaled down. Thus, artiodactyls are walking on phalanges corresponding to the middle and ring fingers of humans.
broken mouth
Periodontitis by which sheep of mostly older age loose their permanent incisors.
Remove the gonads. This technique is often applied to rams in order to influence which male animals are actively breeding.
Enzyme that is used during cheese production.
End limb of the of artiodactyls, which is homologous to the hooves of perissodactyls and the finger nails of humans, respectively.
cloven hoofed animals
Together with goats, cattle, pigs and others, sheep belong to the mammalian order of cloven hoofed animals or artiodactyls, as opposed to the odd-toed ungulates or perissodactyls.
corner tooth
Used synonymously to canine tooth, eg. in Cocquyt, Driessen and Simoens: Variability in the eruption of the permanent incisor teeth in sheep, Veterinary Record, November 2005, Vol. 157, p. 619-623
Gelatinous substance which develops during cheese manufacturing. As soon as → chymosin is added to milk,
Definition:chymosin: Enzyme that is used during cheese production
→ whey
Definition:whey: Aqueous fluid, which develops during cheese production
separates in the course of 1 hour from the curd. Curd is further processed into cheese. For this, it is - depending on the flavour of cheese - separated from the whey, pressed, seasoned, treated with mold spores and finally subject to a maturation process lasting for one or several months.
Female sheep which has already given birth to a lamb.
The sheep Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned. Dolly was born on July 5th 1996 in Roslin-Institute in Schottland. Her existance was reported on February 27th 1997 in the renowned journal Nature. Dolly had to be euthanized on February 14th 2003 due to an incurable lung adenomatosis (a virus infection). During her short life, she gave birth (by the natural way) to three lambs. The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh presents detailed information about Dolly.
eruption times of teeth
Just like humans, sheep undergo an exchange of their dentition during ontogenesis, thereby replacing their deciduous teeth by permanent ones.
Time of eruption
Tooth Source: Dr. Stefan Schwickert: TSE-Probenentnahmeschulung Schaf Source: Gerold Rahmann: Ökologische Schaf- und Ziegenhaltung Source: Spence and Aitchison: Clinical aspects of dental disease in sheep, In Practice, July 1986, Vol. 8, p. 128-135 Source: Cocquyt, Driessen, and Simoens: Variability in the eruption of the permanent incisor teeth in sheep, Veterinary Record, November 2005, Vol. 157, p. 619-623
I1 15 - 18 months 12 - 18 months 10 - 19 months 10 - 24 months
I2 20 - 25 months 24 - 30 months 18 - 26 months 15 - 30 months
I3 27 - 35 months 30 - 36 months 23 - 36 months 24 - 42 months
C 36 - 45 months 42 - 48 months 30 - 48 months 32 - 54 months
P1-P3 ca. 24 months 18 - 30 months
M1 3 months 3 - 5 months
M2 9 months 9 - 12 months
M3 18 months 18 - 24 months
Female sheep
foot and mouth disease
Infectious disease of artiodactyls
gestation period
After a gestation period of 5 months, one or - less often - two (and very seldom more) lamb(s) is/are born.
Sheep which has lost its incisors due to broken mouth.
Young sheep
Looping ill
Virus encephalitis of sheep transmitted by ticks, caused by flavi viruses. The disease is related to (russian) tick-borne encephalitis.
Third section of the stomach of ruminants
Pertaining to sheep
Group of ungulates which are opposed to, e. g. artiodactyls. Typical members of perissodactyls are horses, rhinoceroses and tapirs.
Male sheep (synonymous to tup)
Second section of the stomach of ruminants
First section of the stomach of ruminants
Suborder of artiodactyls, which are characterized by a four-chambered stomach. This stomach is structured into rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum and enables ruminants, due to the microbes living in their stomachs, to digest cellulose.
Ruminants chew their food twice. During the first chewing act, the food is shred, mixed with saliva and then swallowed. It arrives in the rumen, which is inhabitated by a multitude of microbes (bacteria and ciliates). These microbes macerate the main constituent of herbal food, cellulose, and thereby make it finally easy to digest. 1 ml rumen contents of a sheep can harbour close to one million ciliates. From the rumen, the food reaches the reticulum, from where it is regurgitated about one hour after ingestion. Interestingly, the part of the ruminants' brain responsible for regurgitation lies at a comparable topological location as the part of the human brain which governs vomiting. After chewing the food for a second time, it is swallowed again and reaches the rumen and reticulum once more. Components of the food that are reduced to small pieces are forwarded to the omasum. After removal of water, the bolus reaches the abomasum, which is comparable to the stomach of humans and where strictly speaking the digestion takes place.
Infectious disease of sheep, which was described for the first time in the year 1750. It is believed that the way of transmission is via the afterbirth. Scrapie is related to Mad Cow Disease (BSE) and similar ailments affecting other mammals (cats, elk, exotic ungulates, mink, moose). The disease is inevitably fatal. With enactment of August 23rd 2004, the European Union has decreed Commission Regulation 1492/2004, regulating the preferred breeding of PrP genotype A136R154R171, which features an increased resistance against conventional scrapie.
systematic order
The systematic order describes the relationships between all living beings. Sheep are classified in the system like this:
RegnumAnimalia (animals)
SubregnumMetazoa (multicellular animals)
Stem groupDeuterostomia
SubphylumVertebrata/Craniota (vertebrates)
(Intermediate taxon)Tetrapoda
(Intermediate taxon)Amniota
ClassisMammalia (mammals)
(Intermediate taxon)Paraxonia
(Intermediate taxon)Cetartiodactyla
OrdoArtiodactyla (cloven hoofed animals)
SubordoRuminantia (ruminants)
GenusOvis (sheep)
SpeziesOvis (orientalis) aries (domestic sheep)
tooth formula
Due to their nutrition, sheep have a different number and form of teeth than humans. In the deciduous dentition, there are only 3 premolars in each upper jaw, while the lower jaw has 3 incisors, 1 caninus and 3 premolars, which sums up to 20 teeth. This results in the following tooth formula:
maxilla (upper jaw)
- - - - p1 p2 p3

i1 i2 i3 c1 p1 p2 p3
mandible (lower jaw)
A sheep's permanent dentition consists of 3 premolars and 3 molars in the upper jaw and 3 incisors, 1 caninus, 3 premolars and 3 molars in the lower jaw, which sums up to 32 teeth. The corresponding tooth formula is this:
maxilla (upper jaw)
- - - - P1 P2 P3 M1 M2 M3

I1 I2 I3 C1 P1 P2 P3 M1 M2 M3
mandible (lower jaw)
Due to their form, which is similar to incisors, canini are sometimes referred to as 4. incisors, which is not correct.
So, different from humans, sheep cannot bite off, because they are lacking the necessary upper incisors. Instead, they have a keratinized pad in the maxilla, which acts as antagonist for the mandibular incisors, enabling sheep to fix and pluck the grass.
Male sheep (synonymous to ram)
The term ungulates comprises several orders of mammals, e. g. artiodactyls and perissodactyls.
lamb after having been weaned
→ Castrated male sheep
Definition:to castrate: to remove the gonads
Aqueous fluid, which develops during cheese production. As soon as → chymosin
Definition:chymosin: Enzyme that is used during cheese production
is added to milk, whey separates in the course of 1 hour from the → curd.
Definition:curd: Gelatinous substance which develops during cheese manufacturing.
Whey is a formidable soft drink.
Female sheep which has not yet lambed.

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