Sheep Terminology: All You Need To Know

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When starting out in sheep farming, it's best to learn the terminology, jargon and phrases used in this field as soon as possible. Many of these terms are unique to sheep.

If you go to a stock sale or agricultural exposition, the word “sheep” is rarely used. Instead, farmers use a variety of terms and expressions to describe the age, gender, and use of the sheep in addition to expressing their gender.

That’s why it’s a good idea to be familiar with the sheep jargon. So if you’re looking for a dictionary of sheep lingo to jumpstart your business, you’re in the right place:

Sheep Terminology: A to Z

Bellwether – A seasoned wether was originally given a bell to lead a flock; today, the term is primarily used figuratively to describe someone who leads and guides.

Blackface – A sheep that has white wool and a black face. Despite the fact that all sheep exhibit this trait, some breeds are blackfaced. Scottish Blackface Sheep, Hampshire Sheep, and Suffolk Sheep are a few examples of these breeds.

Bottle lambLambs raised on a bottle are known as bottle lambs or cade lambs. These are lambs that cannot nurse from its mother and is dependent on being given milk in a bottle. These lambs are frequently abandoned by their moms or the mothers have passed away from illness. If they are too weak to breastfeed, lambs may also need to be bottle-fed.

Buck – A slang term for ram or an adult male sheep.

Castrated male sheep – Also known as wether. Castration is a treatment used to limit the production of male hormones, which prevents male lambs from reproducing. This entails the removal or destruction of the testes or testicles.

Creep feeding – When a select group of sheep is permitted to graze a pasture before other sheep. This makes it possible for the first set of sheep to consume more nutritious grass, which may aid in their ability to put on weight.

Cross breeding – When mating two sheep of various breeds. A completely distinct breed that carries characteristics or traits from the two parent sheep.

Crutching – To prevent fly-strike, sections of a sheep are sheared, particularly the hind end of some woollier breeds like Merino.

Cull – An ewe no longer fit for breeding and is often sold for its meat.

Dags – These are clumps of dried excrement stuck to a sheep’s wool that could attract flies.

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Ewe – A female sheep whose at least 1 year old and has given birth. Because sheep are still growing until 9 months old, an ewe is made ready to have a lamb when they are slightly over a year old. It takes an average of 150 days for an ewe to be pregnant.

Ewe lambs – The name given to a young female sheep.

Female sheep – A female sheep capable of producing lambs is called an “ewe.” A young female sheep under a year old are known as “ewe lambs.” After a year and until two years old, your female is now called a “yearling ewe.” After that, she is often referred to as ewe. An adult female used for breeding is named a “brood ewe.” And a female mother sheep is referred to as a “dam.”

First shearing – The initial removal of a sheep’s fleece.

Fly strike – Also known as myiasis. This is a blowfly or botfly maggot infection that quickly results in harm or death and affects wool, skin, and finally flesh. Usually (but not always) happens when the wool has been exposed to manure or urine, or when there has been an injury.

Foot rot – Infectious pododermatitis, a painful hoof condition frequently seen in sheep (as well as goats and cattle), is more prevalent when the animals are pastured on soggy ground.

Gestation – To carry throughout the entire pregnancy, from conception to delivery.

Gimmer – An early-stage female sheep, typically before giving birth to a lamb.

Glossary of sheep – Refers to a vocabulary list, terminologies or reference books that tell what you need to know about sheep.

Group of sheep – A group of sheep is called a flock of up to five sheep; sometimes also known as a herd or mob. A band is big group of sheep that can contain up to 1,000 animals. Typically, bands are only visible during the commercial production of meat or wool.

Gummer – Also a Gimmer. This is a young female sheep, typically before bearing her first lamb (especially used in the north of England and Scotland).

Hogg – See hogget. Between the ages of 9 and 18 months, a young sheep of any sex is referred to as a “hogg or hog” (until it cuts two teeth).

HoggetHogg or hog is the term for a young sheep of either sex that is between the ages of 9 and 18 months (until it cuts two teeth); a yearling sheep that has not gone through shearing yet.

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Lanolin – An oil that sheep naturally make. This oil naturally repels water and coats the skin and fleece of sheep. Wool from sheep must be heated in order to remove the lanolin from the fleece.

Leicester – A contagious bacterial infection of the sheep’s hoof that erodes and affects the hoof’s structure and can cause the sheep to become severely lame.

Mammal – Any mammalian species, including egg-laying monotremes, that gives birth to live young and has a body that is more or less covered in hair. Mammaries also provide their young with milk through their mammary glands.

Meat production – After an animal has been killed, the flesh is removed to create meat. Slaughtering and butchery are the terms used to describe these processes. In vitro, or outside of animals, meat production is a topic of continuing research.

Mutton – The meat of an ewe (female sheep) or wether (male sheep).

Orphan lamb – All flocks contain orphaned lambs. They can happen when a ewe has many births but doesn’t care for every kid; when ewes pass away during or right after lambing; or when ewes provide inadequate care for their young.

Older sheep – A sheep that has gone past its productive age is a likely candidate to be sold for its meat. Mutton is meat from an older sheep. Some traditional foodies believe that the meat from these older animals has more flavor.

Ovine – Ovine simply means “related to sheep.” Used to describe traits resembling sheep or anything else related to sheep.

Ovis – Ovis is the name of the group of mammals that includes sheep.

Parturition – The birthing process. A different term for lambing or giving birth.

Pet lamb – An orphan lamb that was raised on a bottle. See orphan lamb and battle lamb.

Polled – Term to indicate that there are no horns.

Raddle – A colored pigment that is applied to sheep for a variety of purposes, including to designate ownership or identify which lambs belong to which ewe. To mark the backs of the ewes he mates, a ram may strap it to his chest (different rams may be given different colors).

Ram – An adult male sheep that has the ability to mate and produce. Buck is a slang term for ram. A young male is called a ram lamb.

Rear legs – Either of the two legs on a four-legged mammal that are located at the back.

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Rumen – The initial section of a ruminant animal’s stomach. Bacteria and protozoa are responsible for breaking down cellulose.

Shearling – Also called a Hogg. a lamb or young sheep that has completed weaning but hasn’t undergone its initial shearing. Usually 9 to 18 months old, still hasn’t cut its first two teeth.

Sheep breeds – There are different sheep breeds around the world. And every sheep breed has its own distinct traits. This can be helpful when looking for the ideal sheep for your farming.

Sheepherder – A person who keeps the flock together when herding on an open range.

Sheep terms – These are all words, explanations, or descriptions related to sheep.

Slang term – A kind of language that is considered to be very casual, is more frequently used in speech than in writing, and is typically specific to a certain setting or group of individuals.

Teg – The second year of a sheep.

Testicles – Either of the two oval organs in male mammals that generate sperm.

Tup – Term used in Scotland and some parts of United Kingdom to refer to male sheep. And mating season is called “tupping.”

Weaning – The act of removing a lamb from its mother so that it can become accustomed to relying on sources of sustenance other than its mother’s milk. Lambs may be weaned as early as 60 days old because at this age the mother’s milk production will have begun to decline.

Wether – A male sheep that has undergone castration. This is the removal of testicles in male sheep to prevent them from reproducing.

Yearling – A sheep that is between one and two years old is referred to as a yearling; a yearling ewe is referred to as a hogget, shearling, or gimmer.

Year old – The age of the sheep in years.

Years of age – Refers to having existed for a particular amount of time.

Young female – The term “ewe lamb” refers to a young female.

Young sheep – The term “lamb” refers to a young sheep. Lamb and mutton, respectively, are terms used to describe the meat of young and older sheep.


A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina recently moved across the globe to Austria, where she bought land specifically to build a small house with room for a backyard chicken coop. Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for a flock of hens owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of chickens, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Sheep Care Taker in 2022.

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