|Common Nicknames||Wooly Goat|
Sheep are long domesticated animals well known to the Ailor of Aloria, likely originating from the ancient continent of Ceardia. Useful for their shearable wool, which can be made into cloth for garments, the animal spread with Ailor across Aloria wherever they went and has diversified into several breeds based on region and cultural taste. The animal is also useful for its meat, with mutton being a common meat next to fish, pork and beef in the culinary creations of many Races. Their extreme herd mentality can be somewhat troublesome, but it also makes them easily controlled.
The Sheep is an ancient animal well known for centuries to the Ailor of Ceardia. They likely lived in the mountains alongside the Goat and other species, but were specifically native to the forests that hugged mountain ranges. In the winter, they descended to escape the worst of the cold and, over time, some believe that Ailor herders did the same, reaching out into the more open areas of Ceardia via routes through the forests. Whatever the truth, the Sheep was soon bred for flat terrain and, unlike the Goat which retains aspects fitting mountain climbing to this day, Sheep were more extensively pushed away from these high-up homes. They were bred for thicker coats and, over time, came to lose those mountain climbing traits in favor of things more befitting the open terrain. Eventually the animal was taken to different locations by Ailor and other parties, adapting to its surroundings. They never quite diversified the same way as other species have under Ailor care, but that is perhaps because their purpose was quite basic and the Ceardian Wooly, the original breed, fulfilled many requirements. Today, the animal is most populous in the agricultural regions of many continents, where great open fields hold hundreds of these animals slowly grazing as they have been doing since over a millenia ago. Their wool remains key to many pieces of clothing worn by the Ailor, and their meat is enjoyed by many.
The Sheep has spread across Aloria but, despite the many divergences from the original species, a number of traits and features can be summarized as existing across the animal as a whole. They stand between two to three feet tall and three to five feet in length when fully grown, with a variety of weights based on time of year and the amount of wool that has grown on the animal. Their heads are narrow with wide mouths, large noses and two horizontal slit-shaped pupils which vary in color but are near-sighted, making the long-range visual detection of predators difficult. The top of their head features two large ears, often held out horizontally at the sides, with males often further having a pair of large lateral spiral horns. The rest of the animal’s body is set to the ground on four sure feet and they lack tails. Their bodies are covered in a layer of hair, but they also grow an addition layer of hair known as wool, which has a variety of quality levels based on breed, but which can be sheared off for use in cloth production. Most wool ends where the animal’s neck begins, but some grows up to the point of hugging the animal’s face to just behind and around their ears, framing their face. Their body hair and wool can be both the same color or different ones.
As mentioned above, the Sheep is an extremely diverse animal. In its spread across Aloria, a wide variety of subspecies have emerged on the various continents to suit a variety of different needs. In general, their population numbers are equal between the two sexes, though sexual dimorphism does exist. Males often possess prominent horns which curl, whereas it’s much rarer for females to possess them and when they do, they are usually much shorter than the male’s. Below can be found a listing of the various subspecies of Sheep in Aloria.
- Ceardian Wooly: The Ceardian Wooly is the oldest species of Sheep in Aloria, originating on Ceardia. It represents the original template, with light brown to shades of white to black wool covering a basic body. Males are often larger than females and possess large curled horns. They are also the most widespread of all the species of Sheep, being found on almost every Alorian continent alongside other varieties.
- Anglian Black Breed: The Anglian Black Breed is a species of Sheep developed within the last century by the Anglian people of the Regalian Archipelago. They are colored black all over their bodies, with shaggy, downward turned body hair, though their faces are clear of such wool. The head also possesses the only major coloration on the animal, with white spots, blobs or speckling occurring in random patterns for each individual. They are also notable for lacking horns of any sort on either sex.
- Northern Blackleg Breed: The Northern Blackleg Breed was developed by Northland Cultures in The North Belt and in the north of the Regalian Archipelago. They possess a black-skinned body but grow wool of various shades of grey overtop of this. They also possess small, white “teardrops” below their eyes, said to be an act of the gods to forever remind herders of the care they must have for their animals after they have sheared them so that such creatures do not freeze to death.
- Daen Manteau Sheep: The Daen Manteau Sheep is a variety of Sheep bred by the Ithanians shortly after the Cataclysm, with refinements done by former Daendroque slaves in the intervening years. Unlike other breeds, which often feature off-white or tan wool, the Daen Manteau is often very white. Their wool is also fine and soft, thickly growing on their bodies and thus it tends to pool on their bodies, partially covering their heads. This wool is used to make literal tons of fine white cloth, often used by upper-class households across Aloria.
Life Span and Development
The Sheep is born in a litter of one to two, with three and four lambs at once being very rare. Lambs keep close to their mothers and indeed the wider herd over their maturation period of anywhere from between six to eight months. At this point, they are considered adults, and have the capacity to mate themselves when the time comes, that time universally being springtime for all varieties of the species. Sheep live anywhere between ten to fifteen years and the breed with the longest life is, on average, the Anglian Black Breed.
The Sheep possesses a heavy herd mentality, stronger than Goats and most bovines. Sheep will always group up and move as a closely-knit flock when feeding, many standing shoulder to shoulder with others as they nibble. They are not curious creatures and will shy away from new things or people they are unfamiliar with. They also flee or stand their ground as a group when confronted with outfight hostility and additionally dislike being removed from herds by farmers or breeders for long periods of time. They are also driven by following leaders, even in escapes from farms and pastures, as dominant rams will see to other males and ultimately, most females usually follow after them. They are thus easily herded and caught, as often when the leader is stopped, the herd will stop with him. The animal is generally quiet, but is capable of bleating in distress, surprise, or just for the purpose of making a noise.
Territory and Groupings
Sheep herds vary in size from anywhere between ten to fifty and, even in large-scale pasture farming, large flocks will subdivide into clusters often roughly based on kin group via the mother/female Sheep. Each flock is dominated by a male known as a ram, who establishes dominance during the mating season and sometimes defends his title from unknown or precocious males at other times of the year. Where he goes, much of the herd will follow. The animal grazes over a large territory when in the open, shifting around based on the time of day or the terrain they’re on, but is also easily moved around based on the desires and needs of herdsmen who own them.
- Sheep often seek to eat weeds and other plants considered invasive and destructive to fields. Thus, some have taken to running Sheep through farming fields before harvest time to let them eat as many future issues as they can.
- Sheep and Urlans get along extremely well. In fact, they get along so well that an Urlan might find Sheep trying to follow after them as if they are the new head of the flock, or be challenged by the standing head for dominance.
- Keeping a Sheep sheared properly is important to many, as extensively wooled Sheep will overheat quicker in hotter climates or times of year and have a harder time seeing what is around them.