Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Differences Between Sheep and Goats

Do you know how to tell the difference between a sheep and a goat?  A lot of people think that if it has wool, it's a sheep; if it has hair, it's a goat - but this is not true!

When we first moved to the country we were pretty familiar with livestock... and of course when we found hair sheep we soon learned more about them.  On many occasions when we would share pictures of our hair sheep people would make comments "That's not a sheep, it's a GOAT!".  Well of course we know our animals, and they were wrong... but you cannot blame folks for not being familiar with hair sheep as they are not common. 

There are in fact many physical differences between sheep and goats.  Without looking can you think which one has a spit lip and which does not?

Sheep or Goat?

What is the difference between sheep and goats?

  • Goats are browsers, they prefer to feed on shrubs, bushes, and trees. Sheep are grazers, they prefer to feed on things on the ground, such as grass.
  • Most Goat Breeds have tails that stick up, where as sheep have tails that hang down (many are docked or cut short within a few days of birth).
  • Goats have 60 Chromosomes, Sheep have only 54. Reports of them being able to crossbreed are rare and unproven.
  • Male Goats and some females have “beards”. Sheep do not, but some hair sheep have “manes”.
  • Goats are not very tolerant of rain or cold weather, often seeking shelter. Sheep are more likely to seek shelter from the sun on a hot day, and will tolerate some rain or cold weather.
  • Goats often leave their “kids” in groups to rest while the “does” feed. Sheep keep their lambs by their sides.
  • Many breeds of goats can climb fences. Sheep are not known as climbers.
  • Male Goats rear up on their hind legs and come down to “butt heads”. Male Sheep back up and charge to “butt heads”.
  • Goats have solid upper lips. In sheep the upper lip is divided.
  • Female goats are called does, or nannies, males are called bucks, their young are called kids. Females sheep are called ewes, males are called rams, their young are called lambs.

    The photo above is a sheep, in fact it is a young hair sheep ram.  Below are some goats.


  • Not all sheep are Woolly, some breeds have “hair” and shed in the summer. These sheep do not require sheering or having their tails docked.
  • The average lifespan of a goat or sheep is 10-14 years, but some live much longer, depending on breed.
  • Gestation Period (pregnancy) is about 5 months for both.
  • Goats usually have 2 kids at once, but may have many more, Sheep usually have between 1-3 lambs.
  • Both Goats and Sheep are easily preyed upon by Coyotes, Wolves, and other predators, especially when they are young. A Llama makes an excellent guard animal against Coyotes, but is no match for larger predators. A donkey or guard dog should be used in such cases.
  • Father goats or sheep are called Sires, Mother goats or sheep are called Dams.
  • Goats and Sheep do not have front top teeth.
  • Neutered male goats and sheep are called Wethers.
  • Goats and Sheep can be kept together, but do have different feed requirements.


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  10. Interetsting article. Goats and sheep are fairly closely related and can interbreed, although this is not recommended. If your looking for more information on keeping goats domestically you might want to check out this site

  11. Interesting article. Sheep and goats are closely related and can interbreed although this is not recommended. If you would like more information on keeping pet goats you might want to check out the following site

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