Rams hold an important place in much of mythology, from ancient Egypt, to the Chinese Zodiac, to early Christianity. Depending on the culture, they were venerated for their strength, fertility, or aggression. Even the car company, Dodge, used the slogan 'Ram Tough'. In astrology, the Ram represents the zodiac sign Aries and celebrates the vernal equinox, where spring returns and there is rebirth.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Artiodactyla
Family – Bovidae
Subfamily – Caprinae
Genus – Ovis
Common Names – Ram, sheep, wether (refers to a neutered adult male)
The size and temperament of rams vary greatly depending on the species of sheep. Typically, the male rams are larger and more aggressive than the female ewes. They have heavy, curved horns on their head that they use during conflicts with other rams. They can weigh anywhere from 80-400 pounds, depending on species, age, and health.
Males typically reach breeding age at around six months to a year old, but wild rams must prove themselves against other males before they gain the right to breed. Most sheep breed in the fall, but males are capable of breeding year-round. Unlike various other mammals, female sheep of many species will often seek out males when they wish to mate and will pursue them.
All sheep are social, but females tend to herd together with their young and males will remain in looser groups, where they will fight for dominance. In these conflicts, they will rise up on their hind legs and run towards each other, crashing their horns together. These contests can last for extended periods of time, even going over several hours, until one male submits. This behavior is how they received their name, as they continually ram each other. Their skulls are reinforced to survive the repeated assaults and can withstand over eight hundred pounds of pressure. While this is their best known aggressive behavior, they will also vocalize or use their bodies to block or move a competitor.
Sheep are mostly domesticated, a process that began 10,000 years ago. They were bred for wool, meat, leather, and, to a lesser extent, milk. One of the major traits seen in domestic breeds over wild breeds are the color variations. wild sheep tend to have coats of different shades of brown, while white is the dominant color for domestic animals.
With over one billion individuals in just the most common species of sheep, they are in no overall danger. There are, however, some species that are exceedingly rare or endangered, such as the Boreray and the mouflon. The mouflon was the subject of cloning experiments in 2001 and the lamb survived for seven months. While some view cloning as a way of preserving endangered species, it cannot contribute to the genetic diversity, which is the key to a species long-term survival.
- The comparative anatomy of the domesticated animals by Auguste Chauveau
- Domesticated Animals: Their Relation to Man and to his Advancement in Civilization by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler
- Domesticated Animals and Plants; a Brief Treatise Upon the Origin and Development of Domesticated Races, with Special Reference to the Methods of Improvement by Eugene Davenport
- Domestic Animals History and Description of the Horse, Mule, Cattle, Sheep, Swine, Poultry and Farm Dogs; with Directions for their Management, Breeding, ... Directions for the Management of the Dairy by Richard L. Allen
- Animal Life in Nature, Myths, and Dreams by Elizabeth Caspari , Ken Robbins