Our sheep were sheared yesterday. Some photos below, as well as a video for those of you that cannot come see them in person. (Click on each photo to enlarge).
I know it sounds like an infomercial that you would see on TV late at night when you can’t sleep, but it’s not. Unlike those television gimmicks, this method actually has guaranteed results, and doesn’t require any bulky machines that have to get shipped to your house. The unfortunate part about this sure-fire weight loss plan is…
It’s only for sheep.
You may have guessed what I’m talking about by looking at our freshly sheared wooly friends in the picture below. Yes, that’s right, it was time for our annual sheep shearing this past Sunday. And you might be surprised how heavy all that wool actually is!
This year we had a new person shearing our sheep, and she did it the old-fashioned way: with actual shears instead of electric clippers. This means she manually cut the wool off the sheep instead of the faster way of shaving them (much like you would your own hair). Below, you can see some pictures from Sunday with the woman using real shears. However, you can click here to read a post about the sheep being sheared in 2008, and watch a video of the shearer using electric clippers, instead. As you will read in the 2008 post, our five sheep yielded around 40 pounds of wool! How would you like to lose 8 pounds every time you got your hair cut?!
Wilco is one of five sheep living in our farmyard. She is the easiest sheep to identify because she is the smallest and has a black spot on her nose. Of our five sheep, there are two mothers, two daughters (one to each mother) and a male (whom is not related to, nor the father of, the other sheep). Wilco is one of our mothers. Surprisingly enough, both of the mother sheep are significantly smaller than their daughters!
Wilco was born in December of 2000 at a farm in North Carolina, so she is just over 8 years old. From there, she came to the museum in June of 2002 with her newborn baby, Mutton. Wilco is the sheep that is most likely to approach the fence if you are standing there. Even though our sheep have been around people all their lives, they are still quite skiddish of visitors as well as the keepers. They like to stay together, which is an instinctive “flock” behavior for sheep. Being prey animals, they are less vulnerable to predators if they stay in a close circle and move as a unit. By staying in a flock, the animals in the middle of the circle are safe, and it is much more difficult for a predator to single out a specific animal to kill. For this reason, sheep can become stressed out if they are separated from their flock. Occassionally we witness this with our sheep when we have to catch one of them so that they can be examined by a veterinarian.
Another characteristic that helps sheep stay safe from predators is their amazing peripheral vision. Sheep have pupils that are slit-shaped and allow them to see anywhere from 270 degrees to 320 degrees around them! This means that sheep can see things behind them without even turning their heads. However, they do not have good depth perception, so fluctuations and dips in the ground can prove more difficult for them than for most animals.
Being native to the Gulf Coast of Florida means that these sheep are well adapted to warm weather. When the hot days of June come, many visitors worry that the thick coat of wool they have will cause them to overheat. On the contrary, the wool has the opposite effect. In actuality, the wool helps to repel the rays of the sun and keep cooler temperatures closer to their body. So while we are feeling the effects of the hot weather, the sheep are laying out in the sun and still cooler than we are! For this reason, the benefits of getting our sheep sheared once a year has more to do with health and cleanliness than it does weather. And even though we don’t use their wool for clothing, it still serves a good purpose by becoming enrichment for our other animals.
You can watch a video of our sheep being sheared from last year, as well as read a previous post about how much our sheep enjoy receiving Russian-olive (an invasive leafy shrub) as a treat and enrichment item.
The information in this post can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheep
Alopecia and depilation are big words that refer to hair loss. Depliation is the intentional removal of hair using mechanical or chemical means, while alopecia refers to hair loss due to physiological processes. During the spring and summer there is a lot of hair loss going on at the museum . Many wild animals shed out of a winter coat into a sleeker, cooler summer coat. Our red wolves are transitioning from thick coat to a thin coat and can look like they have lost a lot of weight. The black bears at the museum also shed a lot in the late spring and summer and can look shaggy for a while.