Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom

Sheep and Wool

Background

Sheep are very gentle animals and are easily frightened. They flock together for protection because they can’t really protect themselves. Sheep have many natural predators, animals that hunt and kill sheep for food. They include coyotes, wolves and domestic dogs. Sometimes larger animals, like mules or llamas, are kept in the pastures with the sheep to scare off possible predators.

The people who raise and care for sheep are called shepherds. Sometimes, shepherds have dogs to help take care of the sheep. The dog learns to round up the sheep, and when one wanders from the flock, the dog brings it back.

There are many different breeds of sheep. Some are raised for meat, and others primarily for their wool. Sheep are valuable because they often graze land that other livestock cannot. Sheep eat grass and hay. Oklahoma is a good place for raising sheep because it is one of only a few states that has year-round forage production.

Sheep were some of the first animals to be domesticated by ancient people. They have been providing meat and clothing to people for over 10,000 years. Spinning wool into thread began about 5,000 years ago.

Wool is a special natural fiber. It always feels warm and soft. It is very good at keeping out the cold and at warming your skin. Even if your wool sweater gets wet from snow or rain, it will still keep you warm. Wool also wears well and lasts for a long time. One of the best things about wool fabric is that it is flame resistant, so it is safer to wear than some other fabrics.

One sheep produces eight to ten pounds of wool per year, enough to make a man’s suit. One pound of wool can make ten miles of yarn.

Wool straight from the sheep is called raw wool. Raw wool may go through more than 70 processing steps to assure that fabrics made from the wool are of the highest quality.

Oklahoma’s sheep and lamb inventory on January 1, 2016, was 746,000 head. Wool produced from Oklahoma sheep in 2016 was 95,000 pounds.

Wool can have a wide range of natural colors and textures, depending on which animal produced the fleece. To help consumers and spinners identify pure wool, the wool industry designed a trademark symbol. The wool symbol can only be used on products made from pure new wool. The wool symbol is used and recognized all over the world.

Wool can also be made from the hair or fur of goats, rabbits, llamas, alpaca, and even a semi-wild animal from the Andes mountains called a vicuna.

Background and Vocabulary

Learning Activities

Combing a fleece

Wet and Wooly -Science, Grades 6-8

Students will experiment with some of the properties of wool and compare and contrast them with synthetic fibers, practice vocabulary related to sheep and wool and create art with wool yarn.

Multimedia Presentation (Power Point) (Keynote Version)

Smart Board Activity: Alliteration

Counting Sheep - SS, Math, ELA, Grades K-3

Students learn about the origins of counting sheep, using counting words, design their own counting systems, use popcorn to represent sheep in various math equations, learn about a sheep’s vision in relation to angles and degrees of a circle, and use popcorn to make a handprint lamb.

Counting Sheep Kahoot!

Ernie counting sheep (Sesame Street: You Tube Video)

How to Sneak Up on a Sheep - Geometry

Students learn about a sheep’s vision in relation to angles and degrees of a circle.

When Woodrow Wilson was President, the First Lady had sheep graze on the White House lawn to keep it neat and well-trimmed.

 

The Cutest Camelid - ELA, Science, Grades K-3

Students will read about alpacas. Students will create fact sheets about alpacas. Students will create flip book showing alpaca needs. Students will compare and contrast alpaca fiber with sheep and goat fiber.

More Resources

Nonfiction Books About Sheep and Wool

Sheep in Fiction and Fantasy

Different Kinds of Wool

Handprint Lamb

Simple crafts with felted wool

Have You Seen My Sheep? (game)

Common Words and Phrases With Sheep Origins

Lillie, the Lamb, and the Scary Secret (MS Word) (PowerPoint)

Sheep Breeds

Sheep and Wool Facts

Poems about Sheep

Little Boy Blue

by Anonymous

Little boy blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow,
The cow's in the corn.
But where is the boy
Who looks after the sheep?
He's under a haystack,
Fast asleep.

Little Bo-Peep

by Anonymous

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,
And can't tell where to find them;
Leave them alone, and they'll come home,
Bringing their tails behind them.

Little Bo-Peep fell fast asleep,
And dreamt she heard them bleating;
But when she awoke, she found it a joke,
For they were still all fleeting.

Then up she took her little crook,
Determined for to find them;
She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed,
For they'd left their tails behind them.

It happened one day, as Bo-Peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tails, side by side,
All hung on a tree to dry.

She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye,
And over the hillocks she raced;
And tried what she could, as a shepherdess should,
That each tail be properly placed.

Why are so many nursery rhymes about children tending sheep? In ancient times sheep generally wandered around from one place to another, through the villages and around them, looking for grass to eat under the care of a shepherd. Often shepherds were children, sometimes groups of children. Joseph, from the Bible story, was out tending the sheep with his brothers when his brothers sold him to the Egyptian slave traders.

What other nursery rhymes are about children tending sheep? (Mary Had a Little Lamb; Baa, Baa, Black Sheep)

More about sheep in ancient history

More poems about sheep

Sheep Shearing

The Lincolnshire Shepherd (counting song)

The Watersons sing The Lincolnshire Shepherd (YouTube)

Ag in Art

Shepherd With a Flock of Sheep, Vincent Van Gogh, 1884

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Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom

Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.