Do wild sheep shed?

So we went shopping today and got Moon Unit a new winter coat - wool. As we were chatting later the subject of the number of sheep involved came up (side question: about how many sheep must give their fleeces to make a short jacket out of wool? 1? 2? 20?).

Then she asked “what happens with wild sheep? Do they shed or something?” and I honestly didn’t know. I mean, I assume a domesticated sheep’s fleece doesn’t fall out fast enough to keep up with its growth.

Or… does it. we just grab the beasties and sheer them before the fleece has a chance to fall and and get scraggly and be wasted?

We entertained ourselves with the amusing image of a mountain sheep getting more and more spherical as it ages.

There are domestic breeds that are effectively self-shearing. I saw a display about one at a fair (or maybe it was a festival) earlier this year–the gist was basically because they were destined to be mutton the shedding saved the farmer lots of money each year in shearing costs of undesirable wool. A quick look on the internet suggests it might have been the Dorper, but I can’t say for sure.

I can say for certain that Big Horn sheep shed, and i have read that domestic sheep do not - in fact one of the major selections that ancient man made was a selection for non shedding. The same thing has happened in dogs BTW

In the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, Psyche is tasked with retrieving wool from some golden sheep (which happen to be carnivorous and fierce). She is advised that if she walks among the brambles which the sheep have been traversing on their way to their favored grazing grounds, she can pick all she needs from the bushes.

Are there flocks of free, wild, feral sheep roaming anywhere? If there are, I’d guess what doesn’t molt away come spring and summer might get rubbed off on bushes and tree trunks. Or by rolling on the ground.

This sheep escaped shearing for six years, and had a fleece weighing sixty pounds.

Well done and I’m impressed you know about Shrek. :smiley: He died in 2011 and is now on display in the national museum in Wellington.

Moon Unit’s jacket would require about half a fleece assuming it weighs about three pounds. The average fleece when shorn weighs 8lb but only 70% of it is fine enough to get to the knitting/weaving process.

Wild sheep - my guess is there are plenty in Morocco and the Atlas mountains, Mongolia, Spain, etc.

Some wild sheep were recovered from the Auckland Islands a few years ago because their genetic purity no longer exists anywhere. Some unique pigs as well.

Incidentally the animals were put on these desolate islands nearly 200 years ago as food for shipwrecked sailors.

Not in Spain AFAIK. Goats, yes, we even have some local wild varieties. Sheep, no.

I’ve seen images of wild sheep with their fleece beginning to come off. It sort of gathers into twists and looks like someone started to try and make crude yarn fibers from their wool – which may very well have given primitive humans the inspiration for turning wool into fibers.

asterion, you are right about Dorper sheep*, they’re one of a number of breeds of “hair sheep” which are more desirable for meat (and perhaps milk) than wooled sheep.

Per wikpedia,

So it sounds like the wild sheep do shed; perhaps the woolly parts don’t shed as well?

Re Shrek: Impressive!! I wonder how long it took Shrek to realize how much better and lighter he felt once he’d finally been shorn.

I guess the sheep on the Auckland Islands would count as feral - what do their coats look like, I wonder?

  • and yes, I did initially read that as Doper sheep :smiley:

As a broad brush, wool fibre does not shed naturally while hair fibre does.
Plenty of exceptions including the Wiltshire breed of sheep which moults it’s fleece annually and Angora goats which don’t shed their mohair.

If a sheep in the wild, or for that matter domesticated suffers a food restriction e.g. during a drought or severe winter then wool fibre production slows and the fibre diameter reduces (hunger fine) or may cease for a time. Either will cause a “break” in the staple which can lead to the fleece being shed some time later.

The principle is used in the technology of “chemical shearing” when a treatment is applied stopping fibre production for a couple of days. A couple of weeks later (during which time the sheep wears a net to stop the fleece being shed prematurely) and after when the fibre has regrown sufficiently you can then shear the sheep with your bare hand along the break.

Somewhat OT but entertaining nevertheless, here is a video (which went viral) of a sheep just a few miles from me.

Everyone including Fred is having fun and enjoying playing with the ball. The people are laughing and having a jolly good time with their pet sheep.

Fred however is a Border-Leicester ram. Honestly, these are beautiful magnificent animals, my Dad used to breed them. But Fred is a ram. He means business.

Y’know, the name Rambo isn’t derived from a poodle.

Fred may appear to be playing but its his primal instincts at work. I’ve been butted by rams and they don’t mess about. Its like being hit by a sentient rock - warm and woolly but utterly serious and very hard.

You’ll note the parents don’t allow their children in the paddock with Fred because he’d really hurt them even though he wouldn’t mean to do so.

I don’t run into many sheep, but I’ve often wondered if poodles could live without humans for that reason.

Nice video. But most important thing I learned: the kid said “soccer.” Hah! Do Kiwis get abused the way we Yanks do for that?

And they don’t even play football, I don’t think.

So…a grizzly bear.

Ha! We call it soccer informally but having just checked, I’m surprised to discover that the soccer clubs are actually named Football clubs. Strictly - Association Football Club (AFC). Who knew? I always took my son to soccer games. :smack:

But the larger answer is that football in New Zealand is rugby. Very few people would think of soccer. And when Americans say football I immediately see a grid-iron field.

Well, I’ve had sheep, the kind you shear, and they don’t really shed. I did shear them every spring (Dorset, Southdown, Cheviot, and Border Leicester crosses known as The Stupids). I have a poodle, and he doesn’t shed, but if I don’t clip him regularly he would mat, and IMO if poodles don’t have a human to boss around they go into a Decline.

I believe there are still a few wild sheep in the British Isles. Soay comes to mind. They have the mixed coat with permits the undercoat to shed. I had one Angora goat who dropped her coat soon after kidding, but she was the only one. My Shetlands no longer shed, even though some had a pronounced double coat.

I don’t miss raising sheep, but I do mourn the loss of all those baby lamb chops.