Do black sheep usually become goats?

Aaaay, whut?

Is this a metaphorical question? If so, it’s generally a bad idea to mix your metaphors. You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead, if you see what I mean.

If you seriously believe that black sheep TURN INTO goats – no. Not even slightly possible.

Taxonomy diagram of Ruminantia, showing sheep and goats as separate species.

They’re different genuses – Ovis (sheep) and Capra (goats) – which means they’re like taxonomic cousins. They can interbreed, but it’s rare, like human cousin-marriage. But a sheep turning into a goat is as likely as you turning into your Cousin Kevin.

Ewww.

Quora linky.

Why don’t goats produce wool the way sheep do?

Strictly speaking?

Because goats produce their own spinnable fibre – notably the Cashmere goat breeds and the Angora goat, which produce cashmere and mohair respectively. Yes, mohair – not angora, which is produced by the Angora rabbit.

Historically, or rather paleoagriculturally, sheep appear to have been bred primarily for their wool, whereas goats seem to have been bred primarily for milk, although there are such things as milk sheep and, clearly, fibre goats. I can only hazard a guess that the primitive sheep domesticated by our ancestors must have produced more fibre than goats did*, and/or that primitive domesticated goats had more milk or were easier to milk than sheep

Milk goat

Milk sheep.

Yep, definitely easier to milk the goat.


* – The Jacob sheep, a relatively primitive breed, produces about 2–3kg fleece, whereas (modern) Cashmere goats produce only 1kg.

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Are goats hard to maintain when compared to sheep?

It depends what you’re looking for.

Goats are more like cats – only semi-domesticated. In some ways, that’s great – they’ll look after themselves. In others, it’s not so good – they’ll get into the veg garden or the laundry, and destroy all before them. They can be super-affectionate one minute, and charging at you malice aforethought the next. Just like cats, really.

Milk-goats are probably more domesticated, less damaging, and less homicidal than most. But they need to be milked at least once a day unless you want to deal with kid goats as well.

Sheep … well, temperament varies with breed. Blue-Faced Leicesters and Wensleydales are aristocrats and you are the peasant servicing their every need – they’re the cats amongst sheep breeds. Southdowns, Hebrideans and Valais Blacknoses are puppy-affectionate, if you’re willing to be a hands-on shepherd and spend time with them; they’re also great with children. The more feral Soay, Ronaldsay and Boreray are like wary domesticated dogs, or foxes. You can win their trust up to a point so they’ll come to you, but you will never be ‘pack’, and they will dash off at the first hint of something out of the normal.

However, virtually any sheep can be a pet provided you take them in and bottle-feed them from birth: ideally, pick a ewe or a castrated male – never a full ram, as they’re just as homicidal as goats, and often three or four times the size. Here’s a sheep that was raised with pups:

Its demeanour, body language, and movement is all dog. Hopefully, these dogs have all been trained not to jump on people – this boyo is only half-grown.

The downside is that sheep often require more veterinary input, and, of course, the shearing – unless you get a feral breed that naturally sheds its fleece, and are prepared to work hard on charming them.

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What is the source of the mohair variety of wool?

Mohair is not wool, as such. Wool, strictly speaking, is a seasonally-growing undercoat from sheep, although the term is often used more widely to include fluffy undercoats from many other animals, including yak and buffalo.

Mohair is a hair fibre from the Angora goat. It has a silk-like sheen, dyes well, and does not felt. It is also very sturdy compared to similar-quality sheep’s wool, and for that reason is often used to make outerwear, and, historically, soldiers’ uniforms.

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Would it have been possible for Native Americans domesticate mountain goats and big horn sheep, or is there something about them that makes them harder to domesticate than other goat/sheep species?

Others have mentioned the difficulties of catching and domesticating mountain goats and Bighorns.

I’m going to look at what the benefits of Bighorn sheep might have been to the Native Americans. Sorry, I don’t know much about goats.

Factors in sheep domestication:

  1. Milk
  2. Meat
  3. Fleece
  4. Skins
  5. Docility

(1) I don’t know if Bighorns are particularly good milkers, but, if domesticated, the better milkers could be selected for. However, at least 74% of Native Americans lack the gene mutation for adult lactose tolerance. That figure could well have been higher in the past, so they would not necessarily have wanted to domesticate Bighorns for milk.

(2) Bighorns are big buggers, and can weigh up to 300 pounds. This would be a good reason for their domestication, but absent other reasons, why not simply hunt wild Bighorns?

(3) Bighorns are hair sheep. They have minimal undercoat (fleece).

(4) Another good reason for domestication, but insufficient on its own: hides would be a byproduct of hunting for meat.

(5) Bighorns are BIG. 2–300 pounds, around 1 metre (40 ins) tall at the shoulder, 1.6 – 1.85 m (5–6ft) long nose to tail. Those horns alone can weigh 14kg (30 pounds). This alone wouldn’t render them undomesticable – cattle are much larger. However, combined with their social structure, their size alone is risky. Unlike domesticated sheep, they live communally – males and females together, rather than many females and one ram. The latter social structure works for domesticability: if you can control the ram, you can control the flock – or simply eliminate the ram, and the ewes will follow you as the new leader. With Bighorns, you’d need to eliminate all the rams – even keeping one for breeding doesn’t keep control of the flock – and gain control of the oldest ewe (female Bighorns have an age-related hierarchy). If you did somehow manage to keep a Bighorn flock whole, you would have to deal with big, dangerous rams attacking each other (and, presumably, you) in rut to establish a pecking order for access to fertile ewes.

Herding Bighorns is far too much effort for access to their meat and skins – which can be obtained much more economically through hunting.

Quora linky.

Which is the better pet: a goat or a sheep, and why?

Neither.

They shouldn’t be pets, and sheep in particular are better served in flocks. Goats too, but I’ve known some goats kept singly or in pairs that don’t suffer.

Personally, I prefer sheep, because, wool. Also, regularly handled, they’re tremendously affectionate, like dogs:

Goats eat and wreck everything and will knock you over as soon as look at you.

Originally appeared on Quora.