Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Sheep: Domestication

  • Jennifer R. S. Meadows
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2215

Basic Species Information

Sheep, Ovis aries, (Mammalia, Artiodactyla, Bovidae, Caprinae) are a highly versatile and adaptable species. From their domestication in the Fertile Crescent, approximately 11,000 years ago, sheep now span the diverse terrains of each inhabited continent where they are exploited for a variety of uses including the production of food (milk, fat, meat) and clothing (skin, wool) (Dwyer 2008). Selection based on environmental tolerance, behavioral, and commercial traits has led to the development of more than 1,400 breeds. These designations are traditionally based upon morphology (e.g., coat color, fleece, and carcass conformation, Fig. 1). Sheep weigh between 25 kg and 160 kg depending on breed, and display significant sexual dimorphism, with males often ~40–50 % larger than females (Dwyer 2008). The key adaptations since domestication have included the selection for thicker wool coats that do not molt (hair sheep are an exception), and an increase in the...
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References

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science for Life Laboratory, Department of Medical Biochemistry and MicrobiologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden