By Lillian Hanson, Student Intern
The quick answer is "both" and there are even some sheep who have a combination of wool and hair. But there's much more to a sheep's coat and we're using our "lambs" Zane and Zander to illustrate the intricacies.
Although they are fully-grown adults now, Zane and Zander will always be "lambs" to us. Their mother, Shaw, was rescued from the Westport animal cruelty case in 2016, where she lived in horrific conditions and was likely days away from being slaughtered for the annual Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. Their father, Barnaby, came to us as a baby lamb in 2019 after being found tied to a post outside with no shelter, food, or water. He too was days away from being slaughtered for Easter with no care given to his living conditions.
As Barnaby matured, we made sure to schedule an appointment for him to be neutered since we are not in the business of breeding animals. But the veterinarian rescheduled the appointment and during that very short window of time, nature took its course. We never intended for Shaw to become pregnant and it was a shock to all of us. Zane and Zander were this first (and likely last) births at West Place, but considering both parents were not supposed to live, our two "lambs" exemplify how life will continue to find a way to go on despite all obstacles.
Back to the wool vs. hair question . . .
Shaw and Barnaby have two completely different coat types, and their children reflect that! All sheep have two kinds of fiber: hair and wool. Haired sheep, as the name implies, have mostly hair on their coats that grows in the colder months to cover their bodies and keep them warm. Wooly sheep have mostly wool that grows over their bodies in the colder months. Both are fluffy and soft, but they require different maintenance.
Barnaby, a wooly sheep, needs his coat sheared every year to make sure he doesn’t overheat in the summer under all his wool. Shaw is haired and has never needed to be sheared. She sheds her hair in the spring naturally (but her brother Colby is wooly and needs to be sheared). And the kids, Zane and Zander, are an interesting combination. They are technically more haired than wooly, but they each have sections on their coats that grow in a bit more wooly than the rest. So, haired vs. wooly genes act more like a blend instead of one being dominant over the other in mixed offspring.
Next time you see a sheep or come to visit ours, take a good look at their coats to tell if they’re haired, wooly, or a combination!
If you have or would like to have sheep, would you rather have wooly sheep that get a fresh haircut every spring, or haired sheep that shed their extra coat in the spring? Let us know in the comments.
You can sponsor Zane, Zander, Shaw, Colby, or Barnaby for just $75/month. Your sponsorship covers the cost food and supplies, medication and vet visits, and of course shearing for our wooly sheep.