A sheep is any of several wooly ruminant quadrupeds, but most commonly the Domestic Sheep, Ovis aries, which is thought to be descended from the wild Urial of south-central and south-west Asia. For other types of sheep and their close relatives, see goat antelope.
Female sheep are called ewes, males are called rams, yearlings are called hoggetts, and younger sheep are called lambs. There are many breeds of sheep. Sheep can be generally classed as wool breeds, meat breeds, or dual use breeds. Wool breeds are bred for superior wool quantity and quality (fineness of fibers), wool staple length and degree of crimp in the fiber. Major wool breeds are Merino, Rambouillet, and Lincoln. Meat sheep are bred for fast growth, multiple births, ease of lambing, and hardiness. Breeds of meat sheep include Suffolk, Hampshire, Dorset, Columbia, and Texel. The Finnish Landrace sheep is known for multiple births. Some breeds, called hair sheep, like the Katahdin and Dorper, have little to no wool.
For centuries, sheep have represented in many cultures, especially in the Mediterranean area, the most common type of livestock agriculture, and sheep have been the frequent object of selective breeding. A wide symbology regards them in ancient art, traditions and culture. Judaism uses many sheep references including the Passover lamb in Egypt. Christianity uses sheep-related metaphors, like the Christ the good shepherd, the bishop's Pastoral, the lion to lie down with the lamb. Greek Easter celebrations are incomplete without a meal of lamb.
In some places, like Sardinia, sheep-breeding has become the principal and characteristic activity. Even now, including reproduction gains, sheep are able to yearly render up to the 400% of their cost. Sheep breeding has been involved in several historic conflicts such as the Highland clearances, the US range wars, and the English "enclosing of the commons".
The sheep (or goat) is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. It is thought that each animal is associated with certain personality traits.
Sheep meat prepared as food is commonly known as mutton. The meat of immature sheep, also termed lamb, is generally regarded as tenderer and is more widely eaten in western countries. Mutton is more flavorful but often tougher and fattier. Lamb is a common feature in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine.
The following was copied from the Simple English Wikipedia:
Sheep follow others blindly. This is why people are sometimes called sheep. It means that a person follows a group of people. This can be because they trust the group. Or it can be because they are not thinking for themself. This can be good if the group leads to something positive (like the group of sheep being led to grass). It can be bad if the group leads the other sheep to something negative.
The way sheep follow each other is so reliable that there are special names for the different roles sheep play in a flock. The sheep that is furthest away from the others is called the outlier, a term also used in statistics. This sheep is willing to go out further away from the safety of the flock to graze, but takes a chance that a predator like a wolf will attack it first, because it is alone. Another sheep, the bellwether, which never goes first but always follows an outlier, is the one that signals to the others that it is safe to go that way. When it moves, the others will also move. Tendency to be outliers or to be bellwethers, or stick in the middle of the flock, seems to stay with a sheep its whole life. There might be genes that make them repeat this role behaviour.
See also: Dolly the sheep
Sheep are also a Christian rock band of the early 1960s Jesus Movement in Europe, singing in English and Finnish.