Out of all the livestock species that we might raise, it’s easy to see why sheep are among the most appealing.
Those fluffy, luxurious wool coats, overall docility, and sheer cuteness make them incredibly charming.
Naturally, there are plenty of people who might want a sheep around is a pet without going all in on a farm and a whole flock of them.
The question, then, is this: do sheep make good pets?
No, sheep are generally not good pets. Sheep need other sheep as part of their flock in order to develop properly and thrive. A single sheep as a pet will certainly bond with you, but will not lead a very fulfilling life.
I know it hurts to learn if you really like sheep, but you should never invest in a single sheep as a pet.
It isn’t really fair to the sheep, and there are lots of problems associated with keeping them that go way beyond a dog or cat.
That being said, if you live on the right kind of property and don’t mind having several sheep, they can make fine farmyard pets as long as they have several others of their own kind to hang around with.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about keeping sheep as pets, including the do’s and the don’ts, below…
Sheep Can Make Good “Farm” Pets
Now, before you get too upset I do want to point out that sheep can make good pets. But only in the right circumstances!
Those circumstances are on a farm or some other rural environment where they have plenty of room to graze and hang out outside, and an environment where they have other sheep to be with most of the time.
This is because sheep are grazing animals, of course, but also because they are highly social and gregarious with a strong flocking instinct.
Quite literally, sheep depend on having other sheep around in order to inform their own behaviors and feel safe and secure.
Yes, your sheep can bond with you especially if you raise them from babies, but it’s just not the same as having their own kind. We will talk more about that in a bit.
Can a Sheep Be an Indoor Pet?
Not really, and if you try, believe me, you will come to regret it. Take it for me, I know sheep seem incredibly cute and a perfect fit for your house when they’re small, but most breeds don’t stay that way forever.
In fact, sheep are among the most quickly growing animals out there, and it won’t be long before your tiny, precious lamb starts tipping the scales at more than 150 pounds (68 kilos).
That’s bigger than any housecat and nearly all dogs on earth.
Besides that, sheep must have grass to graze on, and don’t even get me started on what you’re going to do if your sheep has horns. Yes, females can sometimes have horns too.
We’ll talk more about that particular problem soon!
Sheep Always Need Time Outside
The other major issue concerning keeping sheep indoors is that they simply need to be outside a lot.
Arguably, all animals need outdoor time to be well-adjusted and happy, but sheep need more than most.
They must be able to roam and graze with others of their own kind in order to feel fulfilled and happy, no matter how much they might love you.
Keeping your sheep indoors and then letting it out into your backyard once in awhile to use the bathroom is just not going to cut it.
Sheep Need Other Sheep to Bond With
I alluded to this up above but it really cannot be overstated. Sheep must have other sheep to bond with.
I’ve seen plenty of solo cheap, either kept as ill-advised pets or long-term as rescued and they rarely do well.
This is because sheep need others of their own kind to thrive, and it generally speaking more is better. I wouldn’t advise it keeping anything less than four sheep, and that is cutting it.
Seven or better is it what I consider the absolute minimum for a healthy, if small, flock.
I’m not talking anything about business here or farm operations: I’m talking about the mental health and well-being of the sheep, period.
Most Sheep Need Shearing
Another major consideration that most people conveniently overlook when considering a precious, snow white sheep as a pet is that that sheep will need to be sheared, and sheered pretty regularly for good hygiene and health.
Sure, dogs and cats need grooming, what’s the difference?
The difference is that you don’t have to restrain a large and powerful animal and a variety of uncomfortable positions and then run electric clippers all over its body while it is resisting and without hurting it.
This isn’t something you can just skip on, either. Sheep that aren’t shorn will quickly become overgrown and then wool blind, meaning as you’d expect, that the wool literally grows over their eyes and blinds them.
Then you’ll have the obvious issues associated with cleanliness because they’ll be pooping and peeing all over their own wool and it is a nightmare to clean.
So, accordingly, keeping your sheep shorn with a close, sanitary shave is absolutely imperative not only for their health but also for your own sanity.
Sheep Might Not be Legal as Pets Where You Live!
Another obvious oversight: consider where you live sheep simply might not be classified as pets any which way!
I mean to say that, depending on the laws and codes of your town, city or county you might not be able to keep a sheep at all on a residential property!
This is because sheep are typically classified as livestock animals, and many laws and codes are on the books to prevent people from keeping livestock animals, and specifically livestock mammals, in residential areas.
I know it sounds cool if you want sheep as a pet, but how would you feel if your next-door neighbor was raising a herd of pigs in his backyard?
You would probably get tired of the noise and the smell in short order.
If you are dead-set on getting a sheep as a pet, make sure you investigate all the relevant laws before you purchase or adopt.
Are Sheep Friendly to People?
Yes, typically, especially concerning females and most sheep if you raise them from the time they are lambs.
Especially in the case of a bottle baby, a lamb that you bottle feed in place of its mother, it is highly likely that the sheep will bond to you and adore you for the rest of its life.
This, of course, is the point for most people but it’s also be pointed out that sheep can be quite needy, and there are cases when a sheep might not be as friendly as you would prefer.
Can Sheep Get Along with Dogs and Cats?
Yes, but this is generally uncommon and I don’t recommend you include a sheep in any environment with an untrained dog or a cat that shows antisocial tendencies with other animals- which is most of them.
Sheep are prey animals, and more than that they have a unique relationship with dogs, or rather with all canines.
While it is true that certain herding dogs do very well around sheep and get them to do what is required of them at the behest of a shepherd, most sheep tend to be very wary towards them or even hostile.
Countless generations of being preyed upon by wolves will do that to you!
And this isn’t a matter of your sheep simply being afraid of your dog: sheep are large and powerful, and they can headbutt, kick, and stomp and potentially cause major injury to a dog that is simply coming up to sniff them.
This is less of a concern if the sheep is raised alongside a young dog, but that presents other issues because sheep also seem to trigger the prey drive in dogs quite easily.
I’ve seen sweet, lovely domesticated dogs suddenly turn on sheep and especially lambs with no warning, and more than once!
How About a Lamb? Can a Lamb be a Good Pet?
Lambs are adorable, and a highly appealing pet but they are a poor pet for all the reasons we described above. Simply stated, they don’t stay lambs for very long!
Is a Ram a Good Pet?
No! Bad, bad idea!
As far as sheep go, a ram is an especially poor pet. Very especially an intact ram, and doubly so if it has horns.
Rams tend to be surly, aggressive and standoffish, and especially so in a flock environment.
Even if you raise it from a lamb yourself, a ram is likely to strike up a “turf war” with you for dominance, and if you make the foolhardy mistake of bringing it in the house its horns are going to bash holes in walls and break all kinds of things. One of those things might be you!
How Long Will a Sheep Live as a Pet?
In ideal circumstances and given an optimized diet and ongoing medical care, your sheep might live anywhere between 10 and 12 years as a pet.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.