Sheep shed, too! ....at least ours do
March 18, 2018
When you think sheep, do you think wool? You would be correct in many situations, but a closer look reveals it wasn't always that way and still isn't. Sheep were originally domesticated for three products: meat, milk, and hide. Wool wasn't part of original sheep domestication, at all! That isn't to say original domesticated sheep and their ancestors didn't have wool - they did and do - however, the ratio between wool fibers and hair fibers was much lower. It wasn't for a few thousand years after the original domestication, as speculated, that sheep were thought to have been selected for wool.
Now to avoid confusion, let's be clear. Wool is actually a type of hair. It's made of the protein, keratin, just like human hair, fur, nails, horns, etc. What sets wool apart from "hair" though, is its thickness, length, density, and its duration of growth. Wool was the original undercoat in sheep ancestors, and naturally evolved to be less abundant than the overcoat hair. After some time, though, the undercoat wool fiber was selected for over the original long and thin hair that the sheep produced in their overcoat, and thus, wool producing sheep breeds came to be.
Hair is genetically programmed to stop growing at a given point. Wool, however, doesn't typically stop growing like hair does, hence, it's very important wool sheep are sheared in the spring to keep them from overheating in summer.
Sheep that do not produce wool are referred to as "hair sheep". They, like dogs, cats, horses, etc. gain a winter coat and shed it in the spring and so, do not necessitate shearing at all. Having thinner coats makes many hair breeds more successful and tolerant of high summer heat than wool breeds, making them more popular in tropical areas.
The sheep Green Fire Farm raises are St. Croix/Dorper crosses. Neither breed was bred for wool, denoting them as "hair" breeds. Both breeds were also selected for exceptional mothering characteristics and high natural, parasite resistance. Hair sheep also don't typically need their tails docked because of their parasite resistance and self-managing coat. Thus, the selected genetics in this cross breed helps keep our flock strong, healthy, and able to perform with great success on our lush pastures, with very little maintenance.