The body of the Southdown is compactly made, very wide and deep with short legs. Mature rams weight between 225 to 250 lbs and mature ewes weigh between 145 to 175 lbs. Coloration varies from gray to mousy brown. The nose is narrow and the ears pointed. Females have two mammae, and are generally somewhat smaller than males.
Class: Mammal (Mammalia)
Habitat: Generally in association with humans
Lifespan: 6 to 10 years
Wild Diet: Grasses, sedge, forbs, some browse
Zoo Diet: Alfalfa hay, sheep and lamb diet
Sheep are gregarious, sometimes gathering in herds of over 100. The sexes of feral O. aries usually remain apart but join during the rut, when the highest ranking males are able to mate with estrous females. In fully domestic flocks the sexes are usually kept apart, mature individuals being brought together for breeding, but even then there may be dominant rams that do most of the mating.
Rut occurs mainly in the autumn and early winter, with births taking place in the spring. The young are precocious. Within a few weeks of birth the lambs form bands of their own, and seek their mothers only periodically to suckle. They are generally weaned by 4 to 6 months. Ewes generally do not breed until their 2nd or 3rd year. Because of social factors, males usually are not able to mate until they are 7 years old, but will do so sooner if dominant rams of their group are killed.
Gestation: 144-152 days
Litter: 1 to 4
- Archeological evidence indicates that the domestic sheep is descended from a mouflon-like animal, and that domestication occurred about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region. No wild sheep has a woolly coat comparable to that of O. aries. Feral populations of O. aries have become established in many parts of the world, notably islands, where they have contributed to the extinction and endangerment of numerous native species.
- The Genus name, Ovis, is Latin for 'a sheep.' The species name, Aries, is Latin for 'a ram.'
- A male is called a 'ram,' a female a 'ewe,' and a juvenile a 'lamb.'