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The physical details of Sheep (Ovis aries or Ovis orientalis aires) vary greatly among breeds. Head and body length is 1,200-1,800 mm and shoulder height is 650-1,270 mm. Female sheep tend to be three quarters to two thirds the size of males. Wild sheep have tails between 70-150 mm but in domestic sheep tails may be larger and used as a fat reserve, although these long tails are removed on most commercial farms. Sheep have a vertical cleft and narrow snout completely covered with short hair except on the margins of the nostrils and lips. The genus Ovis is characterized by the presence of glands situated in a shallow depression in the lacrimal bone, the groin area, and between the two main toes of the foot. These glands secrete a clear semi-fluid substance that gives domestic sheep their characteristic smell. The skulls of domesticated sheep differ from those of wild sheep in that the eye socket and brain case are reduced. Selection for economically important traits has produced domestic sheep with or without wool, horns, and external ears. Coloration ranges from milky white to dark brown and black. There is considerable diversity among the over 200 distinct breeds of sheep.



See Also

  • Mouflon (The ancestor of this species)