If you recall the nursery rhyme, "Everywhere that Mary went her lamb was sure to go." Sheep can make good pets, especially if you choose the right breed and raise them from a young age. They aren't dogs, giving you undying love and devotion, but pet sheep can be affectionate in their own way.
You might want to adopt an orphaned lamb for your pet sheep. While raising the baby is a lot of work, the plus side is that the lamb is a pet from day one. He'll get used to constant handling and attention. If you go this route, remember that lambs need bottle feeding every three to four hours for the first few weeks of life. That means he'll have to live in your house, as he also requires warmth.
Depending on the breed, an adult sheep weighs between 100 and 150 pounds. You'll need to provide your sheep with pasture, or hay if he's kept in a small lot. He'll need adequate shelter, as well as a constant supply of fresh water. Sheep are prey animals, vulnerable to loose dogs or coyotes, so you'll need to install canine-proof fencing. You might even have to protect your sheep from your own dog. Sheep require regular veterinary care, as well as hoof trimming and deworming.
If you're in the market for a pet sheep, choose a ewe or wether, a castrated male. You don't want a ram, loaded with testosterone. Not only do rams butt, they can become very aggressive. Choose a polled breed, one born without horns, or a sheep that was polled soon after birth. Horns complicate matters, as they can be used to harm you or other pets. Horned sheep also get their heads stuck in fencing or other objects more easily.
Pet Sheep Breeds
While you can make a pet of any sheep, certain breeds make better pets than others. Size and disposition are paramount, as is hair quality if you don't want to deal with shearing. The relatively small babydoll Southdown sheep, so named because happy little faces look like dolls, are bred for good dispositions. In addition to providing companionship, they're efficient lawnmowers. Hair sheep breeds don't require shearing, so they are bred as meat animals. Some hair sheep breeds boast impressive horns, which is exactly what you don't want in a pet.
- Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: Basic Management of Pet Sheep
- University of Maryland Extension: Sheep and Goats as Pets
- North American Babydoll Southdown Association and Registry: Breed Standard (Print Version)
- Natural Organic Farming: How to Keep Sheep
- Hobby Farms: Hair Sheep -- No Wooling Around
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.