Sheep Week – Fun Factoids

photo by Hannah Thiessen

photo by Hannah Thiessen

They tell you not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but does the same go for a Malabrigo sheep? No way! You can tell how old a sheep is by looking at how many teeth have grown in on the front of the bottom jaw. The sheep to the left is a very young sheep – only one year old. When lambs are born, they have a small set of milk teeth and an upper dental pad.

Sheep are marked with a plastic earring that is put in very carefully – the sheep’s ears are extremely delicate and the farmers are very concerned about risking pain or infection. Every sheep is pierced with great care. Some farmers even make sure that their sheep can be identified if their tag comes off by tattooing the inside of the ear with the same number.  All the numbers are often entered into a computerized data system with information on the micron count, age, and health of each sheep.

photo by Hannah Thiessen

photo by Hannah Thiessen

Contrary to what you may think, sheep aren’t only judged on micron or luminosity (the whiteness of the fleece), but also their general health and structure. If a sheep has a lopsided gait or his legs are too short, even with a perfect fleece, he will score lower in competitions than a sheep that has a good build.

Chau, Hannah

16 thoughts on “Sheep Week – Fun Factoids

  1. Devinf

    That tooth picture is hilarious!
    I’m glad to hear that the health of the sheep is as important to the farmers as the wool quality.

  2. zzJen

    That makes sense that health counts, overall health can affect everything in the long run. Cute baby teeth -odd but I really like that picture.

  3. Stephanie

    Thanks for the interesting facts. I didn’t know anything about sheep teeth before reading this! 😉

  4. Emmaknits1979

    I can’t believe how fluffy and squishy the fleece looks even though it’s still on the sheep!

  5. Pat Lattimore

    I just love that we can all enjoy something as much as we do our Malabrigo yarn without hurting anything, or without using up a natural resource. Makes me love sheep even more than I did before.

  6. danielle

    When you get back…. can you frame the teeth picture for me? hahaha. I am loving sheep week!

  7. Kitten With A Whiplash

    Sad to think that my lopsided gait would keep me from the top ranks of sheepdom. Well, that and not actually being a sheep.

  8. Kate

    Hey Hannah, quick curiosity!
    Does every sheep always produce the same quality fleece throughout it’s life? Barring any surprise health issues and the like… I never thought about it until I read this post here…

    In other words, would one sheep always make the same micron count/luminosity grade fleece every year?
    Thanks!

  9. Hannah Thiessen Post author

    Nope, the fleece changes over time. Usually the first year has the finest micron and then the sheep’s fleece gets less fine over the course of it’s life.

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