A sheep is an individual...
A sheep is an individual of any of the eight woolly mammal species that comprise the genus Ovis, part of the goat antelope subfamily. All the sheep are bovids (members of the family Bovidae) and ruminants, meaning they chew cud. The domestic sheep is thought to be descended from the wild moufflon of central and southwest Asia. Male sheep are called rams— or wethers if castrated—females ewes, and young lambs. Members of the genus are highly gregarious.
Sheep are usually stockier than other bovines and some have horns which are more divergent than those of goats. Sheep have scent glands on the face and hind feet. Communication through the scent glands is not well understood but is thought to be important for sexual signaling. Males can smell females which are fertile and ready to mate, and rams mark their territories by rubbing scent on to rocks. They have a four-chambered stomach which plays a vital role in digesting, regurgitating, and redigesting food. Domestic sheep are important for their wool, milk, and meat (which is called mutton or lamb).
Although sheep and goats seem similar and can be mated together they belong to
different genera. Goats are caprinae and have 60 chromosomes while sheep are ovinae
and have 54 chromosomes. At Botswana Ministry of Agriculture, a ram that was kept
with a nanny goat impregnated the goat resulting in a live offspring that had 57
chromosomes. This was called "The Toast of Batswana". The hybrid is intermediate
between the two parent species in type. It has a coarse outer coat, a woolly inner
coat, long goat-like legs and a heavy sheep-like body. Although infertile, the Toast
of Batswana was castrated to prevent unwanted sexual behaviour because it continually
mounted the sheep and goats sharing its enclosure.
In 1969, Australian farmer Dick Lanyon, who farmed near Melbourne, Australia, kept a billy-goat among his sheep to scare off foxes during the lambing season. In September of the same year, he claimed to have dozens of �lambs� which were sheep-goat hybrids. The goat was locked up while scientists examined the supposed hybrids. As no more was heard of this case, it is believed that the lambs were pure-bred sheep.
There is a long-standing belief in sheep/goat hybrids which is due to the animals' resemblance to each other. Some primitive varieties of sheep may be misidentified as goats. In "Darwinism An Exposition Of The Theory Of Natural Selection With Some Of Its Applications" (1889), Alfred Russel Wallace wrote:
[...] the following statement of Mr. Low: "It has been long known to shepherds, though questioned by naturalists, that the progeny of the cross between the sheep and goat is fertile. Breeds of this mixed race are numerous in the north of Europe." Nothing appears to be known of such hybrids either in Scandinavia or in Italy; but Professor Giglioli of Florence has kindly given me some useful references to works in which they are described. The following extract from his letter is very interesting: "I need not tell you that there being such hybrids is now generally accepted as a fact. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (Supplements, tom. iii. p. 7, 1756) obtained one such hybrid in 1751 and eight in 1752. Sanson (La Culture, vol. vi. p. 372, 1865) mentions a case observed in the Vosges, France. Geoff. St. Hilaire (Hist. Nat. Gén. des reg. org., vol. iii. p. 163) was the first to mention, I believe, that in different parts of South America the ram is more usually crossed with the she-goat than the sheep with the he-goat. The well-known 'pellones' of Chile are produced by the second a third generation of such hybrids (Gay, 'Hist, de Chile,' vol. i. p. 466, Agriculture, 1862). Hybrids bred from goat and sheep are called 'chabin' in French, and 'cabruno' in Spanish. In Chile such hybrids are called 'carneros lanudos'; their breeding inter se appears to be not always successful, and often the original cross has to be recommenced to obtain the proportion of three-eighths of he-goat and five-eighths of sheep, or of three-eighths of ram and five-eighths of she-goat; such being the reputed best hybrids."
Supposedly, most goat-sheep hybrids die as embryos (the famous geep is a chimera, not a hybrid). Hybrid male mammals are often sterile due to a phenomenon called Haldane's Rule. The Haldane phenomena may apply even when the parent species have the same number of chromosomes as in most cat species hybrids. It sometimes does not apply when the species chromosome number is different as in wild horse (chromosome number = 66) and domestic horse (chromosome number = 64) hybrids. Hybrid female fertility tends to decrease with increasing divergence in chromosome similarity between parent species. Presumably, this is due to mismatch problems during meiosis and the resulting production of eggs with unbalanced genetic complements.
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 Alaska to Mexico. Sheep were first domesticated c.7,000 years ago, and the first use of their fleeces for wool is dated at c.4000 B.C. 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.
Technically any critter...
Technically any critter can go for an extended period without food but water is another issue. Our basic care includes checking for available water whether it is a spigot or an entire bucket and making sure that the supply is enough for a full hot day. Next, it is neccessary to feed at least once a day but preferably twice a day.
Sheep do not necessarily seek shelter from rain, but, especially when their fleece is long, they seek shade. Provide some type of cover that the sheep can use when the weather is either too sunny or too wet. Newborn lambs lose bodyheat quickly and need protection from the cold, especially wet cold.
To maintain good condition, sheep need exercise. Young lambs romp and play, creating their own activity whenever they're not nursing or resting. A roomy pen or pasture will allow mature ewes and rams to move around as much as needed to maintain good condition. Lambs raised for market, however, need extra activity to make sure that they do not become "overconditioned" or fat. Walk your lamb on a halter for a mile or more every day or set up poles in the pen to encourage the lamb to leap from one end to the other.