Facts About the History of Domestic Sheep

Sheep are often known by their Latin name Ovis Aries and their raising plays a major role for the any economy. For this reason, for centuries, humans have been improving this activity in order to increase the quality of their breeding traits.

sheep historyWhen Were Sheep First Discovered

Domestication of the animals was part of the most important events in human history. Some of the evidence suggests that sheep were domesticated in 8000 BC in South-West of Asia, but they were discovered long before. It is often said that the ancestor of the modern sheep is the wild mouflon (Ovis Orientalis) which used to live in Mesopotamia.

A Brief History of The Sheep

10,000 years ago, the number of wild sheep sharply decreased because they were overhunted. As a result, people came with an idea to solve the problem of the disappearance of this vital resource – domestication of the wild sheep. The original purpose of raising sheep was the meat. Later they were bred for the milk products, leather, and wool.

What Adaptations Have Sheep Made Over Time

Since they were domesticated, sheep were raised on farms across the world because of their capacity to adapt without difficulty to different environments. Various researches indicate that many of the characteristics of sheep breeds show resistance to climatic differences, such as day length seasonality, UV, precipitation, and humidity.

The signs of domestication can be noticed in the breeding traits such as lack of the ewe’s horns, minimization of the body size and demographic profiles linked to huge percentages of young animals.

Sheep Domestication Timeline and How They Became Livestock

In 4000 BC, people began to wear clothes made of wool in Babylon (also known as Land of Wool). The Spinning Wheel was invented in 1200 AD. In 1493 AD, Columbus introduces sheep to Cuba on his second cruise and in 1549 AD, Cortes took sheep to Mexico. There are some people who think that sheep from these flocks eventually found their way to the southwest where they were the beginning of the Navajo weaving that is still treasured nowadays. In 55 BC, sheep were brought to the British.

In 1600, England declared the import of the sheep to America illegal because they wanted to have supremacy over the clothing production through the Colonies. During this period, the wool fabric made up two-thirds of England’s foreign trade.

Sheep in the Human Culture Representation

Why was this step – discovering the sheep – so important for the mankind? In the first place, sheep helped people by helping with the advancement of the civilization. Secondly, sheep is an essential representation in many mythologies – for instance, in the Greek mythology, Jason and the Golden Fleece. The sheep was and still remains a fundamental figure for various religions and cultures.

Sheep production is also one of the man’s oldest organised industry. The wool was the first merchandise of commensurable value which empowered the international trade.

In the beginning, the wool industry was developed around 6000 BC in Iran and other Persian cultures which used the sheep raised for the wool as one of the principal commodity. They were later imported to other continents such as Africa and Europe.

Sheep in the Modern Times

Nowadays, recent discoveries showed that sheep is an intelligent animal with qualitative breeding traits. According to a study by Cambridge University, sheep can be trained to recognise human faces from the pictures and in some cases, they can even identify a photograph with their keeper without being taught before.

These animals are relatively large and live long and for this reason they could serve as a model for studying neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease. Even though it was known the manner of the cognitive development of the sheep, the scientists didn’t have enough information about this ability to recognize faces. It is said that this specific trait is comparable to those of humans and monkeys. Sheep have similar brain size and complexity to primates and have advanced facial recognition abilities to those of humans and monkeys.

All in all, sheep are among the first animals to have been domesticated by humans, but their encounter had a valuable significance in the history of the mankind’s evolution.

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