The sheep, Ovis aries, is a domesticated, herbivorous ruminant mammal belonging to the genus Ovis (sheep) of the subfamily Caprinae, in the large family Bovidae. Like all ruminants, sheep are two-toed ungulates (Cetartiodactyla). In common parlance, sheep refer to a set where the female is the ewe and the male is the ram, while the young male is a lamb and the young female is a ewe.

Sheep were one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans and are mainly bred for their milk (cheese making), meat, skin from which a leather called “basane” is prepared and wool. Sheep wool is the most widely used animal fibre.

Ovis aries now accounts for the bulk of sheep populations, although six wild species still exist. It was domesticated in the late 8th millennium BC from wild sheep (Ovis orientalis) originating in the Middle East, probably in south-eastern Anatolia or Zagros.

Sheep are bred throughout the world and have played a central role in many civilisations. At present, Australia, New Zealand, China, Nigeria, Patagonia and the British Isles are the main areas where sheep are raised.

Sheep are a key animal in the history of agriculture and have had a profound effect on human culture. Sheep are often associated with rural scenes. Sheep feature in many legends, such as the Golden Fleece, and in the major religions, particularly the Abrahamic religions. In some rituals, sheep are used as sacrificial animals, notably among Muslims during the Eid al-Adha (or Eid el-Kebir). Moreover, the emergence of the industry in Europe is closely linked to the development of woolen cloth production.

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