If you want to raise pet sheep for your homestead or small farm, there are many decisions to make. Sheep are delightsome pets, but their brains and instincts function differently than many of people’s traditional pets.
First, sheep can get pretty large. My neighbor has sheep that are as tall as a grown person’s waist and weigh close to 200 lbs.
If you are looking for an indoor pet, you should also consider that an average-sized sheep will be a much more difficult pet to keep indoors. It can easily knock over a child or break household items without meaning.
If your sheep will be outside- that’s not as big of a deal, but size matters if it’s an inside sheep.
When scoping out sheep for a pet, look at how the individual sheep behave. Most sheep are gentle, entertaining animals but it’s important to remember that some still revert back to those natural instincts of running when scared.
You’ll probably want to avoid any sheep that panic or run as soon as a human comes near them. Sheep at that level are most likely not trainable and will never become an ideal pet.
Choosing a Hair or Wool Sheep Breed As A Pet:
In addition, you should also consider whether you want to have a wool lamb or a hair lamb. Hair lambs don’t have to be shorn every spring.
A wool lamb will become very uncomfortable as summer approaches if they still have their full winter’s wool. This is additional time or expense you will need to plan on if you have wool lambs.
Some wool lambs shed their wool naturally each spring. This could cause its own hassle if your sheep is an indoor sheep and you have to clean up shed wool.
Are Horned or Polled Sheep Best For Pets?
Sheep that don’t have horns are called polled sheep. Many sheep breeds can have horns or be polled. Still others the rams may have horns, but the ewes are polled. It’s important to know what your particular sheep will likely have from it’s parentage.
Some breeds have spurs, which are small remnants of horns.
A horned sheep inside your house can cause it’s own problems so it’s important to know what to expect if you aren’t adopting a fully-grown sheep. Adequately preparing for your pet sheep will make all the difference in the kind of experience you have.
7 Sheep Breeds That Make Perfect Pets
1. Soay Sheep
Soay sheep are smaller and fine-boned. They generally have a brown-colored face and brown fleece that varies from very light to very dark. The fleece is a mixture of fine wool to hairy fiber and sometimes a mix. It generally sheds its fleece in the summer.
Soays are very hardy and can survive in many different environments. They are usually characterized as intelligent and nimble and have excellent mothering abilities and good resistance to health problems. Ewes can be polled or not polled, wethers are polled.
2. Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep
The Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep is actually a breed developed in the United States after the original Southdown sheep found in England.
They are small sheep with short legs. Their trademark characteristic is their teddy bear-shaped face and “smile”. Neither gender has horns. They have very docile temperaments and good mothering ability. They’re good “weeders” in vineyards and orchards.
3. Shetland Sheep
Shetland sheep are one of the smallest breeds but you’ll find a lot of variety in the breed as far as color and markings. Shetlands come in 11 main colors and 30 different markings. Both genders can have horns but it’s more likely in wethers than ewes.
The sheep are very adaptable and can do well in almost any environment. They’re easy to handle and have very soft fleece.
4. Ouessant Sheep
The Ouessant is the smallest breed of sheep in the world. They are found in Northern Europe. They are a short-tailed breed of sheep that was developed in France. Ouessant sheep are a variety of colors, including black, and are desired for their wool. They are thought to have been brought by the Vikings. They are also known as Ushant, Breton Island Dwarf, and Mouton d’Ouessant. Ouessant sheep are used in France to manage public lands. They are fairly rare. They often have multiple babies.
5. Croix Sheep
The Croix sheep are named for the island of Saint Croix. They were developed in the US Virgin Islands are believed to have been brought from Africa in the 1600s. Croix are a hair sheep that is heat-hardy and parasite resistant. They are valued primarily for meat production. Croix generally only have single babies and can get up to 200 lbs as adults.
6. Katahdin Sheep
The Katahdin sheep was developed in Maine in the second half of the 20th century. They are still relatively small sheep, weighing between 120 to 250 pounds depending on the gender but that’s compared to some sheep that can get up to 300 pounds.
Although not as small as other possibilities, Katahdin sheep do shed their winter coat so you don’t have to shear them. They can come in just about any color. The breed is particularly resistant to parasites.
7. Cheviot Sheep
Cheviot sheep are a medium-sized breed. They originated in the Cheviot hills that border Scotland and England. Cheviot are well-known for their distinctive white face and legs and dense white fleece. Wethers are sometimes horned, but ewes are not.
The sheep are hardy and the ewes have the same strong mothering abilities as other sheep we’ve mentioned.
Sheep Breed Characteristics When Considering A Sheep As A Pet
|Breed||Hair or Wool?||Average Weight||Horns?|
|Soay||Wool, but shed naturally each spring||Ewe: 50 lbs||Large horns, but some are polled|
|Old English Babydoll Southtowns||Woo, but they naturally each spring||2 feet tall||Polled|
|Shetland||Wool||75-100 lbs||Ewes Polled, Rams have large horns|
|Ouessant||Wool||Smallest breed in the world||Ewes are polled, Rams have large horns|
|Croix||Hair||Ewes: 150 lbs||Polled|
|Katahdin||Hair||Ewes: 120-160 lbs||Polled|
|Barbados Blackbelly||Hair||Ewes: 110 lbs||Polled|
|American Blackbelly||Hair||Ewes: 75-95||Ewes are polled, Rams have horns|
|Dorper||Hair||200 lbs||Most pulled. Rams can have spurs|
|Cheviot Sheep||Wool||Ewes 130-170 lbs||Ewes are polled, wethers can be horned.|
My Essential Sheep Supplies
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A sturdy dog collar is essential. Don’t do rope (they’ll break and tangle) or chain (injury!).
A Black Water Tub is way nicer than buckets that tip over. I like to get a 20 or 30-gallon in each pen so my goats have plenty of water, but you can get 100-gallons if you have a lot of sheep in one pen.
Loose minerals in a small bag or a Purina 50 lb bag, and a mineral feeder for free-choice is the best option. One side holds minerals, and the other holds baking soda. Don’t feed sheep goat minerals because it usually contains copper- something that is fatal to sheep.
Hoof trimmers are a necessity because you’ll need to trim your sheep’s hooves every few months. These are nice for the price.
Don’t make the mistake I made by waiting to order a drench gun before you need it. I was surprised by how often I use it. It helps with bloating, dehydration, and other ailments. Here’s a good drench, but you can also drench a bloat solution or water if dehydrated.
Digital Thermometor for when your lambs act sick. You’ll need to know if their temps are too low or too high so you can accurately diagnose the issues.
Vetericyn for wound care. It makes a big difference in a speedy recovery.
These heavy duty clips for fences, to clip ropes to collars, and a million other uses. They are stronger than carabeeners, which we broke a dozen of before switching to these.