Thankful for Sheep

The turkey is the iconic animal of Thanksgiving, which is coming up later this week in the United States and has already happened for our neighbors in Canada. While we’re giving our thanks, on Thanksgiving or any day, let’s be sure to save a special word of gratitude for sheep.  From the first primitive-breed sheep to the improved and carefully bred examples we have today, our ovine friends have done so much for humanity.

Since they were first domesticated, sheep have quietly been there for us, whether adapting to a wide range of temperatures and uses or waiting patiently on islands off the coast where they waited to be of service. Companionship, weed control, meat, but especially wool . . . You could argue that sheep should replace dogs in the honor of “man’s best friend.”

The primitive breeds such as Shetland, Icelandic, Navajo-Churro, and Jacob serve as all-purpose sheep, offering some sort of wool for every occasion. Soft and fine? The undercoat can be next-to-skin soft and beautiful. Strong and durable? The outercoat is coarse and suitable for hardwearing items. Bored with white? Primitive breed sheep come in a rainbow of colors (well, a brown and black rainbow).  Long before we figured out how to make wool shears, sheep’s wool kept us warm and dry.

Once we developed the ability to shear and started breeding for desired traits, sheep came to serve so many purposes. Size, dyeability of fleece, diverse ranges of micron counts, all these things sheep gave us. There is a breed of sheep for every need.

And they’re darn cute, too!

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