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janbb's avatar

Why did sheep evolve with coats that need shearing?

Asked by janbb (60242points) 6 days ago

It doesn’t really make sense. I just saw a video about a sheep that couldn’t walk because it had a wool coat weighing 88 pounds. How did this happen to evolve?

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16 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Most likely we bred them that way.

Blackberry's avatar

That’s a good question, but Dutchess has a point.
I had no idea until recently that bananas were bred to be the way they are.

Humans basically engineered and bred a lot of stuff that normally wouldn’t have been here otherwise.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Humans discovered that they could make money off their wool, so they were bred to retain their wool so humans could sheer & save the wool for use at a more convenient time!!!. Originally, sheep shed their wool. Now they have lost that ability & can die from overheating!!!

Pandora's avatar

Apparently wild sheep molt and their hair is less wool and more hair. They also rub against trees to get rid of their hair.
As @LadyMarissa pointed out, we bred them to grow more wool and not grow the overcoat and not to naturally shed. Though there are apparently some farmed sheep that do still molt and grow the top hair. It probably involves more work to separate the two, but nicer for the sheep.

janbb's avatar

The thing that’s interesting is that the wool industry predates knowledge about genetics so the breeding would have had to be fairly intuitive on the part of the breeders. I’m going to do some research into it. (I guess the same is true of dogs bred for certain tasks as well.)

janbb's avatar

Here’s something:

https://nwyarns.com/blogs/northwest-yarns/know-your-fiber-a-very-brief-history-of-wool#:~:text=The%20earliest%20wool%20clothing%20found,known%20today%20as%20Marseille%2C%20France.

So I guess they found out that if they sheared the sheep, they could make wool fibers. Then probably the sheep that were sheared grew coats back faster rather than molting.

zenvelo's avatar

@janbb ”...predates knowledge about genetics”

But there are many things that have been cross bred over the centuries that predated Mendel and his peas. Tulips were hybridized in the early 17th century, apples have been cross pollinated for centuries.

janbb's avatar

@zenvelo Yup, you’re right.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wild corn was originally the size of wheat. The Aztecs cross bred it over the years to be the size they are today.
The ancients didn’t have to know about genetics to get the desired results. Just cross breed with the bigger corns and keep on going.

HP's avatar

When you think about it, it’s rather obvious that the vast majority of animals we have domesticated would vanish overnight if left to fend on their own without us. Sheep in particular are just too delicious and too impossibly defenseless. And the fact that they so conveniently pile on that wool, is almost due to both breeding as well as the fact that just like us, when we shave our beards and legs, the more frequently you do it, the faster and thicker it grows.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s a myth @HP. Hell, if the hair on my legs grew thicker everytime I shaved over the years I’d look like a bison!

zenvelo's avatar

@HP There are feral cows in Texas.

zenvelo's avatar

Aw, Come on Dutchess, you are still cute!

janbb's avatar

Or perhaps like these ?

janbb's avatar

Update: By a very strange coincidence, I’m reading a novel that is about a son of Charles Dickens who goes to Australia to be a sheep farmer. Learning more than I ever wanted to know!

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