What is the Scientific Name of Sheep?
Sheep are one of the most common domesticated animals across the world. Although any of the animals belonging to the genus Ovis, can be called sheep, the one species that is always commonly
and generally referred to as sheep. This species is highly domesticated and the name of this species is Ovis aries. Hence, for the question of what is the scientific name of sheep, the answer that should be given is Ovis aries.
It is a fundamental aspect of the scientific nomenclature of any living organism, to have two parts in its name and they are Latinised words. The first part is the genus to which it belongs and the second part is the unique and specific species by which a living organism is identified. Hence, in a similar manner, the scientific name of sheep is given by the genus Ovis and the species that is generally referred to and identified most commonly is aries. Based upon this, the scientific name of domesticated sheep is given as Ovis aries.
The Genus Ovis
The genus Ovis belongs to the subfamily of Caprinae, which in turn belongs to the family of Bovidae which have specialised compartments called ruminants for digestion, which is a part of order Artiodactyla, class Mammalia and phylum Chordata. There are seven species within the genus Ovis, of which the domesticated species aries is one of them.
The particular characteristics of the genus Ovis, is that the bodies of the animals belonging to this genus are covered by layers of thick hair to protect them from cold. The outermost layer is of long and stiff hair called kemps over a short woolly undercoat. This layer of hair grows in autumn and is shed in spring. Also, Ovines are characterized by the horns which can be different for wild and domesticated sheep.
Attributes of Ovis Aries
Ovis aries is the scientific name of sheep that is domesticated and was one of the earliest to be raised as such for agricultural purposes. They are also the most abundant in the number amongst Ovine species. Even though the exact demarcation or line of descent is unclear, wild mouflons found in Europe and Asia are considered to be ancestors of the domesticated sheep.
Sheep and goats both come under the subfamily of Caprinae, but they are both essentially different species and belong to different genus as well. In fact, there are significant differences between aries and other Ovines also. The aries have horns that grow into lateral spiral shapes. Distinguishingly, the sheep of this species may have horns present in both the sexes - rams (male) and ewes (female), or only in rams or neither. While in their wild counterparts horns are usually present only in rams. Another notable distinct feature is the fur or the layer of hair on the aries versus their wild parallels. As mentioned earlier, the wild sheep have long and stiff kemps whereas the same is absent in the domesticated ones. In the domesticated sheep breeds, the woolly undercoat is developed into fleeces of long wool as they have been carefully selected against kemps. Interestingly another difference in the traits of the wild and domesticated sheep is their colour.
While the wild sheep may be limited to different variations of brownish hues, the aries may range from pure white to dark chocolate brown, spotted and/or piebald. But the artificial selection by humans gave preference to white coloured sheep breeds since the wool obtained from them was easily dyeable and the white colour is found to be dominant. Yet in the modern-day domestication as already mentioned a wide variation in the colour tone is observed, with recessive traits being selected as well.
An important feature of the Ovines is their sociability. They tend to move in groups called flocks, which helps them survive from predator attacks, from cold winds in winter when they huddle together, and for finding food and grazing areas. This reason has also been an important factor in them being one of the earliest domesticated. The long periods of selective breeding have led to slow psychological development. All these factors have made them one of the best candidates for animal husbandry all around the world. Furthermore, Ovis aries are raised not only for the wool but also, for their milk and meat as well. Depending on the age the meat might be called a lamb or mutton.
Dolly - The World’s Most Famous Sheep
All the peculiarities of Ovis aries have made them remarkable not only for domestication but also suitable candidates for scientific studies. In 1996, Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from somatic cells using the process of nuclear transfer. She is regarded to be a scientific marvel and the entire process of the cloning of Dolly gave scientists huge insights into stem cell research and therapeutics.
Scientific nomenclature is a vast topic in itself. There should be pursuance of a detailed study of the topic of naming organisms scientifically and understand the various features associated with it. Ovis aries as explained above is an example of scientific nomenclature as it follows the rules of using Latinised words for the nomenclature of sheep which also classifies sheep into genus and species.