Sheep (Ovis aries) are domestic animals raised on farms for their wool, meat and milk.
Along with goats, pigs and cattle, sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated. According to FAO sheep are the mammals with the highest number of recorded breeds. Sheep breeds can be classified according to the primary purpose they are grown for, the type of fibres they produce or to certain physical characteristics.
Meat and Wool Purpose Sheep
In relation to the primary purpose classification criteria, certain breeds are raised for their meat, others for their wool. There are many subtypes of each category and some breeds can serve a dual-purpose, such as the medium wool meat sheep, which are mainly raised for their meat but also produce medium wool.
Different Sheep Breeds for Different Wool Types
The Texel and Dorset are good choices for meat production while the finest wool is obtained from sheep reared primarily for these fibres. Merino, Rambouillet, Blue Faced Leicester, and Corriedale breeds are among the best known wool-type sheep.
All Wool Finds Its Use
Wool can be used for different purposes, depending on the coarseness of the fibre and on other characteristics such as fibre length and crimp. But regardless of the breed that produced it, wool is a very versatile fibre, with many different qualities and all wool from finest to coarsest finds its use.
Very fine wool is primarily used for clothing while coarser wool is used in carpets and furnishings such as curtains or bedding. A single sheep provides around 4.5 kg of wool per year, the equivalent of 10 or more metres of fabric. This is enough for six sweaters, three suit and trouser combinations, to cover one large sofa or 15 chairs.