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Do Sheep Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

With approximately one billion sheep in the world and an estimated 1,000 different breeds available, it is easy to see why it might be considered a good animal to keep as a pet. In fact, people all over the world do successfully keep them as pets, and if you have an appropriately sized outdoor area where you can keep at least a handful of these ruminants, you could enjoy up to ten years with a sheep as a pet.

Sheep are not traditionally kept as pets and have not been fully domesticated. They do need the companionship of other sheep and unless you train from a young age, you may find yourself having to clear up feces if the sheep are kept indoors. Read on to find out more about keeping sheep as pets and to determine whether it is right for your circumstances.

leaves divider leafAbout Sheep

Sheep were one of the first animals to be domesticated. They were initially kept as a food source and for their skins, rather than their wool. Domestication dates back to around 10,000 BC in Mesopotamia, which is modern day Iran and Turkey. Today, they are still used for their meat and milk but are also widely kept for their wool, which is made into fabric used for clothing and other items.

There are now more than a thousand different breeds of sheep and it is estimated that there are approximately one billion total sheep in the world. China has the most sheep of any country, followed by India and Australia.

sheep with thick wool
Image Credit: pixel2013, Pixabay

Sheep as Pets

You should always check local bylaws and regulations to ensure that it is legal to keep sheep. Some areas prohibit the keeping of livestock, which can even include pet sheep that are kept as companion animals.

Pros

With the proper care and planning, keeping pet sheep offers several benefits:

  • They Can Be Affectionate: Sociable and amenable animals, sheep are relatively affectionate. Some not only enjoy being around humans but may also enjoy being cuddled and fussed. Lambs are especially affectionate, making great pets for children and families.
  • Sheep Can Be Trained: As with most animals, the more time you spend with them, the more accepting they will be of you. Food can be especially powerful as a training aid because sheep love to eat. You may need to start by feeding from a bucket but once they get used to eating in this way, you can usually progress to hand feeding. Lambs can be trained to hand feed and it is also possible to house train or potty train a young lamb.
  • They Help Tend Your Lawn: You may not want to let sheep roam freely on pristinely manicured lawns, but you can allow a little time to graze. They will do a good job of keeping grass short, and sheep manure is especially beneficial to grass as well as flowers and plants.
Cons

Sheep can be affectionate and make good pets, but they do have certain requirements and habits that mean they are not an ideal pet for everybody.

  • They Are Herd Animals: Sheep are instinctively herd animals. They do best when kept in a herd of at least three sheep and those that are kept alone show signs of depression and anxiety. If you don’t have the room or inclination to keep at least three, you should consider looking for a different pet.
  • Wooled Sheep Need Shearing: Almost any breed of sheep can be kept as a barnyard pet, but those that are most commonly kept in homes are haired sheep. These do not need annual shearing, but species that have woolen coats will need this regular treatment. If you are unable to do it yourself, having a sheep professionally sheared can be very costly and it can be difficult to find a professional that is willing to shear a herd of three.
  • They Require a Lot of Space: Sheep need space. As a general rule, three sheep will require half an acre of land on which to graze, and this should be in the shape of at least two paddocks so that they can be rotated. Even if you have a large garden, you may still not have ample room to keep pet sheep.

Do Sheep Like Being Petted?

Sheep can grow accustomed to and even enjoy being petted by humans. The more time you spend with one, the more it will grow to enjoy it. Lambs are especially susceptible to human contact and they will enjoy time with children as well as adults. Adult sheep that have not had human interaction may not enjoy being held or even approached and are more likely to run away than to settle.

Katahdin sheeps
Image Credit: Veda J Gonzalez, Shutterstock

Can A Sheep Be an Indoor Pet?

Although lambs can be potty trained and gladly spend time indoors, most sheep require time outdoors to graze and to promote good health. This means that you can keep sheep that sleep in your home but you should offer plenty of outdoor time, as well.

Will Sheep Bite?

Strictly speaking, sheep can and do bite. They usually do this when they feel threatened, are startled, or are scared. With that said, domesticated sheep are usually quite placid and are not prone to excessive biting. The greatest threat of biting usually comes when you don’t get your finger out of the way of them eating a treat.

Sheep being fed with grass
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

How Long Do Sheep Live as Pets?

The exact lifespan of sheep depends on a lot of different factors, including species. Generally, however, they will live around 10 to 12 years. When farmed, they are considered unproductive from the age of about 5 or 6 years old and this is when they are killed. When kept as pets, they will live much longer. Ensure a good diet, look for signs of poor health or illness, and do allow regular time grazing outdoors to ensure as long a life as possible.

leaves divider leafDo Sheep Make Good Pets?

Sheep are considered essential to human survival and the vast majority of the billion in the world are kept for their meat and wool. However, sheep can make good pets when kept as barnyard pet animals. They can also be kept as house pets, although they do require time outdoors and need to be kept in a herd of at least three. If you have a lot of patience and plenty of space, then you can consider one as a pet.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.