One thing you’ll have to learn if you want to keep up in conversations about livestock is the lingo associated with them.
Every species of livestock has a plethora of names and terms used to refer to them; the different sexes, different ages, reproductive status, and more. For the uninitiated, this can be an anxious and even stressful time!
You don’t want to sound like a complete newbie but you also don’t want to use the wrong word in the wrong context and get laughed at by the seasoned veterans.
Let’s look at sheep, for instance. What’s a male sheep called?
A male sheep is called a ram if it is one year old or older and sexually intact.
And it’s just that simple. Mature male sheep are rams, females are ewes. But, that’s just scratching the surface.
The intricacies of sheep naming terminology go far deeper than this, even just for the males. I want to know all of it, so keep reading and you’ll sound like a pro in no time.
What is a Young Male Sheep Called?
A young male sheep is called a lamb. Young sheep, regardless of sex, are just called lambs but there’s a fair bit to consider even for this.
In the context of meat, lambs are lambs until they are around 5 months old, but sometimes older.
Depending on the country, the product and the retailer, they might not be able to call the meat from a young sheep lamb after this point.
On the other hand, tradition and most conventions dictate that a lamb is a lamb regardless of sex and other factors until it is 1 year old.
Once the sheep turns 1 year old, it will be called a ewe if it is a female or a ram if it is a male.
Occasionally, you will see an adolescent lamb that is old enough to start eating solid food at all times referred to as a weaner, again regardless of sex.
A word of caution: different countries and different governing bodies and special interest groups have their own classifications concerning young sheep, so check in with them for more info.
What About a Castrated Male Sheep?
A mature male sheep that is older than 1 year and castrated is called a wether. Note that the spelling is distinct from “weather” and “whether,” you want to make sure you get that part right.
A male sheep will be castrated to keep him under control and prevent aggression towards people and other sheep during the mating season which is very common otherwise.
Turns out that a horny sheep can go downright crazy and become a danger to himself and the rest of the flock.
Removing the testes greatly diminishes the supply of testosterone and other hormones, and also makes the sheep less muscular, powerful and physically impressive overall, though they can still be a handful!
What is an Uncastrated Male Sheep Called?
An uncastrated, mature male sheep is called a ram as detailed above. This term is properly reserved for only sexually intact mature male sheep, although you’ll sometimes see ram used as the generic term for any male sheep in casual conversation.
As a rule, rams are larger, more muscular and far more prone to fighting and aggression as described above.
Many a shepherd has been forced to endure the antics, aggravation and sometimes outright attacks from the alpha ram in a flock.
Do All Rams Have Horns by Definition?
No. Many rams have horns, but this is dependent on the species and the specific genetics of the sheep’s lineage.
Some breeds of sheep are naturally hornless, or polled, while others might grow horns some of the time.
Still, other male sheep might be disbudded early in life, a process that will prevent their horns from growing when they otherwise might.
This is invariably done for safety’s sake to prevent harm to other sheep, people, and even to the ram itself.
What Do You Call a Younger Adult Male Sheep?
You’ll commonly see a very young adult male sheep called a yearling ram. This is because a sheep stops being a lamb at one year of age and is then officially considered an adult.
So an adult ram that is between 1 and 2 years old is called a yearling ram.
That term lets you know you are dealing with young rams in the prime of their life.
What’s an Elderly Male Sheep Called?
An elderly male sheep is still just called a ram. They don’t get a special appellation!
Some Other Names for Male Sheep…
Different countries around the world have different names and nicknames for male sheep, though ram is common and typical throughout North America.
Over in the UK, rams are typically called tups. Immature rams are sometimes called hoggets, although this term seems to be edging towards extinction and is less and less in common usage.
Sometimes, erroneously, male sheep are called bucks, as with goats, but this is completely incorrect and generally frowned upon by enthusiastic and professional shepherds alike.
What Is a Group of Male Sheep Called?
A group of male sheep is still properly called a flock. No matter the distribution of sexes, and no matter whether the flock contains young or old sheep, it’s still just called a flock.
However a common nickname for a group of male sheep is a mob or band. Especially when the males have been separated from the females for whatever reason, you’ll usually hear the male flock referred to as a bachelor flock, or sometimes bachelor herd.
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.