Sheep are domestic animals raised on farms for their wool, meat and milk. Along with goats, pigs and cattle, sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated.

Wool sheep are classified as Ovis aries aries. Merino, Rambouillet, Blue Faced Leicester, and Corriedale breeds are among the best-known wool sheep.

There are hundreds of sheep breeds …

Some sheep breeds are raised for their meat, others for their wool, others for both. The Texel and Dorset breeds are good choices for meat production. But there are literally hundreds of sheep breeds.

All wool can be used

Wool can be used for different purposes, depending on the coarseness of the fibre and on other characteristics such as fibre length and crimp. Very fine wool is primarily used for clothing while coarser wool is used in carpets and furnishings such as curtains or bedding.

Quick Wool & Sheep Facts

  • A single sheep, on average, provides around 4.5 kg of wool per year, the equivalent of 10+ metres of fabric.
  • This 4.5 kg of wool is enough to make six sweaters, three suit and trouser combinations, or the fabric to cover one large sofa.
  • World sheep numbers in 2021 rose to 1.266 billion head, up from 1.263 billion head in 2020.
  • China has the largest sheep population, followed by India, Australia and Sudan

Need more technical information? Writing a thesis or PhD? IWTO publishes an annual compliation of global wool production statistics – see iwto.org/resources/statistics/ for details.

Wool Notes