Lamb VS Sheep: 10 Important difference between Lamb and Sheep

What is the difference between Lamb and Sheep?

In most countries, the term sheep is only used to refer to adult creatures, while lambs are an alternative term for baby sheep. There is no absolute definition of how old a lamb must be to be called a sheep, but at the very least it must be more than one year old.

Lamb and sheep are two animals that you can find in your local market or butcher shop.  You will often hear people use the two words interchangeably as if they were synonyms. While it is true that they are of the same family, there are some significant differences between lambs and sheep. Sheep belong to a species called Ovine, while lamb is a type of sheep.  Lamb meat is tender and is therefore an ideal meat for roasting.

What is Lamb?

A lamb is a sheep in its first year of life. A sheep’s first year is divided into 3 stages: Lamb, Yearling, and Mutton. Lamb is the first stage after birth, and it ends when the animal reaches the age of 12 months. The lamb’s size will vary depending on the breed of sheep it comes from. Most lambs weigh between 80 and 120 pounds at slaughter time, depending on their breed and sex. Sheep produce 1 or 2 lambs per year.

All lambs are classified as either a fat lamb or a feeder lamb. The fat lamb classification is used for those that are ready for slaughter at less than 13 months of age. Feeder lambs are those that are not yet ready for slaughter but may be sold or traded to another producer who will grow them out later on.

Lamb is the most popular meat in Britain and Ireland, and New Zealand produces more lamb than any other country.

Lamb can be divided into four categories:

  • Baby lamb: Less than one month old;
  • Spring lamb: Between 5 and 7 months old;
  • Hogget: Between 8 and 10 months old;
  • Mutton: More than two years old.

What is Sheep?

Sheep are small ruminants belonging to the genus Ovis. They are found all over the world and have been domesticated since ancient times. Sheep can be easily identified by the presence of hooves and horns in males, while they are absent in some breeds of females. They have a thick coat of fur that is usually white or black in color (called wool), although some breeds like the Karakul sheep do not produce wool but hair.

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Within the species, there are more than 200 recognized breeds, which vary in size, fleece type and coloration. Sheep producers typically choose a breed based on its suitability for their region and the way they want to use it — whether for wool production, meat or milk.

Sheep are known for their woolly coats and thick fleeces, but they also have a few other interesting characteristics. They’re generally docile and friendly, though some breeds can be more aggressive than others. They’re also very intelligent and often bond with people who take care of them.

Sheep are about three feet tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 100 to 250 pounds. Their size varies considerably, from the bighorn sheep of North America to the black-faced sheep of New Zealand.

The average lifespan of a sheep is 10 to 12 years. A male sheep, called a ram, weighs between 100 to 350 pounds and stands four feet tall.

The most common breeds of sheep are Dorset, Hampshire, Southdown, Cheviot, Suffolk and Merino and those who lives in temperate climates are the medium-wool breeds of European origin and the long-wool breeds from England. Dairy sheep are important in some areas of the United States.

Also Read: Difference Between Goat and Ram

Lamb VS Sheep: Difference Between Lamb and Sheep

Size and Weight and Age (Lamb vs Sheep)

The weight of sheep varies depending upon the breed of sheep. Domestic sheep are smaller. Ewes, or female sheep, weigh about 100 to 250 pounds and stand about 3 feet tall at the shoulder. Rams, or male sheep, weigh as much as 100 to 350 pounds and stand as tall as 4 feet at the shoulder. Generally, a lamb weighs between 80 t0 120 pounds.

The age of lamb is less than 12 months whereas for sheep it is between 10 to 12 years.

The argali (Ovis ammon), a wild sheep native to Mongolia, is the largest sheep species. It can grow to be 4 feet tall and weigh anywhere from 200 to 700 pounds. The argali has become endangered due to hunting and deforestation.

Meat (Lamb vs Sheep)

The consumption of sheep predates recorded history, with archaeological evidence from nomadic peoples suggesting that domestic sheep were kept for meat as early as 9,000 B.C., and were being cooked on campfires at 7,000 B.C.

Lamb, hogget and mutton are the meat of domestic sheep at different ages. A sheep in its first year is called a lamb and its meat is also called lamb. The meat of a juvenile sheep older than one year is hogget; outside North America this is also a term for the living animal. The meat of an adult sheep is mutton, usually only eaten after it has been matured by hanging for two weeks or longer.

I’d say the difference between lamb and mutton is about the same as the difference between veal and beef. The former are young (under one year old), tender, mild-flavored animals; the latter are tough, fattier, mature beasts.

Lamb cost more than ships because they provide less meat per animal (you can only eat so many legs of lamb before you need to start paying attention to your figure).

Leather (Lamb vs Sheep)

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Leather is the name of a textile material which is made from the skin of animals. It can be used in different ways and for different products. Leather can be used to make shoes, jackets, trousers, bags, wallets and many more products.

Lambskins and sheepskins can be used for furniture, clothing, footwear, handbags, pillows, rugs, and more. The term “lambskin” can be applied to a hide that comes from a young sheep or lamb that is under one year of age. The leather derived from this type of animal is often referred to as “lamb leather.” Lambskin tends to be softer than sheepskin and has a smooth surface. Lamb leather is often used in the production of gloves, jackets, coats and other apparel.

The term “sheepskin” can be applied to hides that come from adult sheep that are over one year of age. This type of leather is often referred to as “sheep leather,” and it has a more rugged texture than lamb leather does. Sheep leather can also be textured to create suede or nubuck finishes. Sheepskin is commonly used in the production of boots and shoes because it is durable and water-repellent. It’s also commonly used in the production of rugs because it’s very soft and plush.

Behaviour (Lamb vs Sheep)

Maternal instincts are another difference between sheep and lamb. Lambs stay close to their mothers until they are weaned at four months old. After that time, the lambs play independently of their mothers. The maternal instinct for sheep is only strong for about two weeks after birth until the ewe weans her “twins”. After this time, she will pay no attention to her lambs unless they make noise or attempt to nurse from her.

Behavioral differences also include how sheep react to noises. In most cases, ewes are calmer and less startled by loud noises than lambs. Lambs will often jump or run at the first sign of a frightening sound.

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Photo by Pexels

Sheep have a higher level of intelligence than lambs as well. While both animals are easy to train for simple tasks such as following food or avoiding dangerous areas when a bell rings, sheep can learn more complex commands if trained from a young age. Lambs cannot be taught as many tricks due to their lower level of intelligence.

Playfulness has a lot to do with the fact that lambs are still growing, so they need more energy than their adult counterparts. Sheep have full grown bodies and can take it easy during the day.

Sheep also tend to be skittish and shy around humans, especially if not accustomed to people or used to being handled. Lambs are naturally curious about humans as well as other animals, so they will approach you or other animals out of curiosity.

Sheep are herd animals, so it is not unusual for them to follow each other around like a pack of wolves. They will protect one another from predators by forming a circle around the lambs in the center of that circle. Lambs prefer to play with other lambs instead of adult sheep. They will do just about anything in order to get attention from their playmates, including jumping over fences, running away from adults and butting heads with other lambs.

Religious value (Lamb vs Sheep)

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The sacrifice of a lamb also has religious significance in Christianity and Judaism. In Judaism, the Paschal Lamb is an animal that was sacrificed on Passover during the Exodus of Egypt. In Christianity, Jesus Christ is called “the Lamb of God”.

For Muslims, the lamb is a sacred animal as it was the animal that Abraham sacrificed in place of his son Ismail. The faithful believe that Allah commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son Ismail (Ishmael), and when he was about to do so, Jibril (Gabriel) appeared with a lamb and told him to sacrifice it instead. A sheep is also the animal that Muslims slaughter at Eid al-Adha (Eid al-Fitr).

Horn (Lamb vs Sheep)

The term sheep is used for the mature animal only. Sheep are generally horned while some breeds have no horn at all. Mostly, male sheep(ram) have horn. The horn grows outward, upward, and backward. The horn of the sheep is derived from the skin. It is formed by the fusion of two sheaths which cover the core of the horn tissue.

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When it comes to the difference between sheep and lambs in terms of horn, lambs do not have any horns. They often have a mane but this is different from a horn. A sheep has one or two horns on the top of its head depending upon the breeds.

Teeth (Lamb vs Sheep)

Lamb usually has no teeth when born. As lambs grow older, their teeth grow with them. By the time they reach adulthood and become ewes or rams, they have a full set of adult teeth.

Diet (Lamb vs Sheep)

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The diet of a sheep consists mainly of grasses, legumes, herbs and other forage plants that produce high amounts of fiber. Since these animals are herbivores, their diets should be free from any type of meat-based products.

Once lambs are weaned, they should be fed a lamb starter ration which is different from what adult sheep are fed. The starter ration contains higher protein levels that help support the rapid growth of lambs as well as a high level of vitamins that support the immune system in order to keep them healthy. Once the lamb has been weaned, you can introduce forage such as grass.

The Key Difference between Lamb and Sheep are given below: (Lamb vs Sheep)

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In the end, we can conclude that the only difference between lamb and sheep is in age. Once they turn one year old they are only sheep. When they are under a year they are classified as lamb. Sheep are usually larger than lambs, and they don’t usually have horns on their head. A lamb is more valued than a sheep, because it is more tasty and valuable.

I hope you enjoyed learning the difference between lamb and sheep. If you want to become better at differentiating between the two, I encourage you to check out the infographic I made on “Difference Between Lamb and Sheep” below. Please share this infographic on social media with anyone you think would like it, and be sure to visit my website for more of my visual content and more helpful tips like this one!

Difference Between Lamb and Sheep: Infographics (Lamb vs Sheep)

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