Monday, 28 July 2014

Do sheep sweat a lot in summer?

One of my aunts lives by the sea. Because it is such a hot summer this year, we went and visited her last weekend. My mom said, she needed some time away after all the house refurbishment she had to do with my dad over the past few months.

My aunt loves sheep and she keeps a few of them in her back garden. (She lives on a small farm, so her back garden is a little bigger than ours). The sheep seemed pretty hot, so I asked her if she knew if they were sweating a lot in summer. She didn't know, so I went online and did a little research...

I think sheep are pretty cool. They're always hungry, their poo is not as smelly as cow dung or dog poo; and when they baa, they sound a lot like the horn of my dad's old camper van. But there are a few more reasons why I think sheep are so great.

Our Geography teacher told us that there are three times more sheep in Wales than people. Wales has about 3 million inhabitants, so that would mean there are more than 9 million sheep in Wales. (There are only a few more sheep than people in Scotland, in case you're interested - check out the Scottish Government's site on sheep to find out more). Most sheep live in China (144 million). When they're together, they are called a 'flock'. They can produce lactose free cheese (which is very good news for people like my dad - if you want to know why, you should check out my post on lactose intolerant people). The first mammal scientists could clone was also a sheep. It was called Dolly and lived a very happy life (or so they say) in Edinburgh until it died in 2003 (you can find out more about Dolly on this site called Animal Research).

But the coolest fact about sheep is that they're so white and fluffy and that their wool can be used for all kinds of fascinating things. If you're a vegan, you won't be interested in this. But sheep can produce sheep wool insulation for your house and their wool can keep you very warm in winter. The sheep hair that goes into the wool grows in waves which are called 'crimp'.

I also found out that sheep don't get wet because of Lanolin. Lanolin is sometimes called 'wool grease' and it is what keeps sheep dry in Winter. The grease can be extracted from shorn wool and used for waterproofing. (You can find out more about Lanolin by checking out the Wikipedia article. And you can click here for some more cool facts on sheep and on wool production in the UK).

Anyway. It turns out that sheep actually do sweat a lot because they have sweat glands. Apparently, they also become very smelly if they do. Sheep get shorn just before summer or before they have to 'go into housing' in winter. Their wool keeps them so warm inside or during the hot months of summer that it would be way too hot for them otherwise. The best thing to do when they start sweating is to shear them then. And since they're letting us have all their wool and grease, I think we should all be very friendly towards them and appreciate them a bit more when we see them.

The picture of the sheep by the sea was taken by Sam_CH and can be found on The derelict house came from the Guardian's website. The sheep with the camera is from a website called