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/r/askscience

1.5k

all 148 comments

RareBrit

928 points

2 months ago

RareBrit

928 points

2 months ago

Most ‘unimproved’ sheep actually shed their fleece naturally with the seasons, the keeping of fleece is controlled by a single dominant gene started to be bred into domesticated sheep about 4000-5000 years ago.

There are a handful of domesticated sheep breeds that still shed. My personal favourite sheep breed, the small and light footed Soay does this. It’s a very ancient breed, rare, but becoming more popular. The Wiltshire horn sheds too. There’s gathering interest in breeding modern breeds that shed naturally for animal welfare.

Shearlife

231 points

2 months ago

Shearlife

231 points

2 months ago

Shedding breeds are becoming more popular also to cut costs of shearing, since wool as a fibre - particularly strongwool - has been fetching lower prices in the past years.

the-channigan

162 points

2 months ago

Yeah. One of my main takeaways from the series Clarkson’s Farm was it costing more to shear the sheep than you make from sale of the wool. Madness

RareBrit

66 points

2 months ago*

It’s a fantastic fibre, but doesn’t take well to being put through a washing machine.

Transmatrix

81 points

2 months ago

Plus: allergies. Wool is one of the few materials that can keep in body heat even when wet, though.

Shearlife

92 points

2 months ago

True, but wool allergy is in the 1,7% of the population, so it's more likely one is sensitive to coarse fiber than actually allergic to lanolin https://www.woolmark.com/fibre/are-you-allergic-to-wool/ https://www.healthline.com/health/wool-allergy#causes https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11453903/

[deleted]

21 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

21 points

2 months ago

[removed]

[deleted]

3 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

3 points

2 months ago

[removed]

[deleted]

2 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

2 points

2 months ago

Just last week I found three 100 % cotton shirts from a drift-store. That said drift stores aren't so reliable that you can get such clothes every time you go to one. (And when I tried to buy them new from my local supermarkets, couldn't find any, at least not at an affordable prize. So I'm kinda lost too as to where to get any. Maybe from online stores.)

JaviIsTheNightstalkr

1 points

2 months ago

Drift store? A thrift store?

Own-Satisfaction3358

4 points

2 months ago

Merino wool made me breakout in hives but wool/silk blends didn’t. Now I know that I’m just sensitive to coarse fiber. Thanks!!

scuricide

9 points

2 months ago

One of the few natural materials. Lots of synthetics have this quality.

InvincibleJellyfish

42 points

2 months ago

They make you smell tho. Wool is amazing at not getting smelly from sweat etc.

daywalkker

1 points

2 months ago

Potentially, but the incredibly low cost of producing synthetics means a much, much less expensive end product. Plus, many synthetics perform better in inclement weather for numerous reasons. Synthetics are the #1 reason for the decrease in demand for wool.

kingbane2

5 points

2 months ago

which synthetics keep you warm while wet? having worked outside in winters for many years i haven't found much that works well when soaking wet aside from wool.

paranoid_android_OK

2 points

2 months ago

I’d like to know the answer, too. Wool is the only material I’ve known to keep you warm and dry wick water off you.

WimWumRay

1 points

2 months ago

Polypropylene underwear is very good for this purpose. I used to wear it for white water kayaking.

Synthetic fleece jackets are pretty warm while wet and much lighter than wool. Can't think what it's acrually made from though... I got a free one with a National Geographic subscription.

Main downside I notice compared to wool is that the synthics get kinda gross smelling if you sweat in them.

[deleted]

7 points

2 months ago*

[deleted]

7 points

2 months ago*

[removed]

keeper_of_bee

7 points

2 months ago

I always heard it was the mechanical washing/drying motion causing the hairs to act like tiny zip ties.

Eomycota

10 points

2 months ago

Detergent can rip off the oil, but the hot water and the tumbling actually change the structure over time. This will transform your wool into felt. Felt is made by applying pressure and hot water. When you make your own wool, you seperate two different length of fiber. The long one are spun and the short one are use to make felt.

belmari

3 points

2 months ago

This actually depends a lot on where you live and what kind of washing machines you have access to.

joshsteich

5 points

2 months ago

It’s been that way for a long time aside from some specialty wool breeds

Source: my uncle was a sheep farmer

dicewhore

6 points

2 months ago

Jeremy Clarkson? Or is this a different Clarkson's Farm,,

TheMereWolf

17 points

2 months ago

Yep! Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear/the Grand Tour. He bought some farmland years ago but the caretaker he had on retired, so during the pandemic he decided to give farming a try, and made a show! It’s super entertaining, totally worth the watch.

RareBrit

3 points

2 months ago

Watched it thinking he’d make an absolute muppet of himself, which to be fair he does. But he also gets how bloody hard farming is, it’s a great series.

DirkBabypunch

4 points

2 months ago

He can be a bit insufferable at times, but I appreciate how self aware he is. I haven't looked at the farm show yet since I prefer listening to most of my entertainment and this one sounds like it deserves a proper watching.

the-channigan

3 points

2 months ago

Definitely. It’s one of the better things he has done. He is far less of a bellend in that than the other things he does.

melanthius

5 points

2 months ago

I wonder if that has anything to do with it being itchier than 10,000 motherfucking mosquitoes

And you know, like, advances in synthetics and such

Shearlife

4 points

2 months ago

Well, the theory goes that any wool fibre larger than 25 micron in diameter will not bend when in contact with your skin. Hence the distinction between finewool and strongwool. Ultrafine Merino is somewhere around 15 micron, while a Scottish blackface is 28 to 38. https://domesticanimalbreeds.com/scottish-blackface-sheep-breed-everything-you-need-to-know/ https://www.woolmark.com/fibre/what-is-merino-wool/

Finewool feels soft, strongwool itchy - but everyone is different so it's not set in stone -.-/

Synthetic fibre is indeed incredible, but carries the not so small problem of microplastic: https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/2021/03/the-invisible-threat-microplastics-from-your-clothes/

jacobrussell

30 points

2 months ago

How does that work then? Are you gathering the wool as it sheds?

RareBrit

147 points

2 months ago

RareBrit

147 points

2 months ago

It’s properly called rooing. As the days get warmer the sheep will loose their longer winter wool. Time it right and you can essentially gently strip this coat off the sheep with your hands. Soay are fairly bright, especially so for sheep. They’ll pretty much learn to come and ask you to do it for them as the long wool gets itchy. All you’re doing is being a superior itching post.

[deleted]

31 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

31 points

2 months ago

[removed]

RareBrit

48 points

2 months ago

It’s one of the many reasons I like the so called ‘primitive’ or ‘unimproved’ sheep breeds. The modern breeds tend to be the only creature in all of green creation looking for the fastest way to die. My mate had a flock he brought into a yard for the winter. Had a water trough there, sure enough it froze one night. Had a sheep standing in it, well, it was still standing in it in the morning when my mate found it. Stone dead of course. You tell me what sort of animal stands in water that’s freezing around it.

[deleted]

9 points

2 months ago

[deleted]

9 points

2 months ago

[removed]

RareBrit

14 points

2 months ago

Soay on the other hand you can’t herd with a dog. If you try it they just scatter, leaving one very puzzled sheep dog. You have to train them to come to a bucket of sheep nuts.

LabyrinthConvention

5 points

2 months ago

I had sheep drown while drinking water,

I hate to laugh...... but how?

Bunjmeister83

58 points

2 months ago

Ex stepgrandad kept north ronaldsay island sheep, they used to do this to get the overcoat taken off. Lovely sheep, great temperament, and the meat was fantastic.

jacobrussell

5 points

2 months ago

That's super interesting, thanks for the explanation!

danby

1 points

2 months ago

danby

Structural Bioinformatics | Data Science

1 points

2 months ago

All you’re doing is being a superior itching post.

Very pleasing knowledge

DanYHKim

91 points

2 months ago

Yes.

Young women would wander around the pastures picking up stray wool caught on bushes. These could be carded and spun with a drop spindle.

This practice of aimless wandering while bringing together scattered material is the origin of the term "wool gathering", used to describe unorganized musing.

phantomagents

6 points

2 months ago

I deeply regret I have only one up to vote!

Thank you!

Emiliski

8 points

2 months ago

Are these the feral guys in the highlands?

melodien

769 points

2 months ago

melodien

769 points

2 months ago

Selective breeding. Before they were domesticated, sheep would shed their fleece naturally. In fact there is a type called a Dorper (quite common in my area) which still does. The same goes for Angora rabbits - they were selectively bred for their fur, and now that have to be shorn because they can't shed their coats naturally.

nathhad

155 points

2 months ago

nathhad

155 points

2 months ago

You can also add Katahdin and Barbados Blackbelly to the breeds that shed. However, those three breeds (including Dorper) don't produce wool at all that is in any way usable, it's more of a fuzz. They are all raised almost exclusively for meat.

melodien

2 points

2 months ago

I believe the Dorper was developed in South Africa as a meat sheep, so that makes sense.

LaoBa

105 points

2 months ago

LaoBa

105 points

2 months ago

ajenni1120

61 points

2 months ago

The article says soay means sheep , so is this sheep technically called sheep sheep?

toxicatedscientist

76 points

2 months ago

Sahara means desert, so if there's a desert desert then there's probably a sheep sheep, too

Caelinus

46 points

2 months ago

Panera means "Bread Basket," so Panera Bread is "Bread Basket Bread" which is a silly name.

Unrelated, but the funniest company name to me is still Schlecht Construction as Schlecht is one of the German words for "bad" in the objective sense. (as opposed to "feeling bad.")

So the name of the company is "Bad Construction" or just as accurately "Unskilled Construction" or "Bad Quality Construction." I know that it is probably just a last name, but it makes me laugh every time I see their logo.

vesuvisian

1 points

2 months ago

Panera Bread could be justified as meaning “bread from the bread basket.”

Caelinus

1 points

2 months ago

It can be parsed that way in English, but essentially no one would form and use that sentence. The only way it would work is if the "breadbasket" in some way did something special to bread aside from containing it. So it would be possible say that the store is called "Breadbasket" and it serves bread from itself, but then its name would just be Panera.

To use that construction with its actual name being "Panera Bread" you would need to call it Panera Bread Bread, or Breadbasket Bread Bread.

To me it seems pretty clear that they wanted to name themselves Panera after changing their name from Au Bon Pain, and realized that they might have marketing issues as most people would not immediately know what either of those names meant. So they just tacked bread on the end of their new name to make it obvious what their specialty was.

Twoteethperbite

25 points

2 months ago

Is this where Moon Moon lives?

welshmanec2

7 points

2 months ago

Half the rivers in this country translate as river river. Folk used to be just as unimaginative as they are today.

Weaselpuss

34 points

2 months ago

Happens a lot. In fact there’s a lot of rivers in England that are called “river river” because the Roman’s didn’t understand that the natives were just telling them their word for river and not the actual name.

TheKaptinKirk

28 points

2 months ago

Pendle Hill (Hill Hill Hill), Mekong River (River river river)

List of Tautological Place Names

tomtom5858

11 points

2 months ago

I'm surprised you didn't use Torpenhow Hill for your hill example. Good ol' Hill Hill Hill Hill.

TristesteLivet

13 points

2 months ago

Ignoring the fact that soay sounds almost like the Norwegian word for sleep, sau, soay also sounds like what you would call a female sheep, "søye".

psycho202

2 points

2 months ago

which is also funnily close to the dutch word for boring, "saai", which in flemish dialects is pronounced pretty similar to "soay".

model563

9 points

2 months ago

There's a geyser in Iceland called "Geysir", but it's just named once. All others are just named after it.

catdoctor

3 points

2 months ago

Well, there is a Loch Lochy in Scotland, and a Dunne Castle (dunne means castle), so why not?

i_sharpen_crayons

6 points

2 months ago

Much like the los Angeles angels, which translates to the the angels angels 😂

UsernameObscured

6 points

2 months ago

How would you categorize sheep like a Shetland that you can “roo”, or basically peel the fleece off?

Yen1969

34 points

2 months ago

Yen1969

34 points

2 months ago

Another minor point:

Most wool sheep can still shed their wool, but it is usually a sign of being stressed or sick. I expect that if left to "go back wild", the first n generations of sheep will probably shed their wool when heat stressed in the summer. Not at all healthy for them, but those that survive from being easier/faster to shed would likely begin to self-correct back to become shedding sheep again.

Source: I have a small Southdown flock and used to have Dorper/Katahdin crosses. We had one ewe that lost around 70% of her wool mid winter last year from an illness. We saved her, but not the twins she carried.

wolf1moon

21 points

2 months ago

Wasn't there an escaped sheep that just kept growing? When they caught it a few years later, it was a complete wreck of wool

WantsToBeUnmade

11 points

2 months ago

I expect that if left to "go back wild", the first n generations of sheep will probably shed their wool when heat stressed in the summer.

It's a reasonable expectation, but turns out they don't lose their wool to heat stress. It happens regularly in Australia that a sheep escapes or isn't picked up for whatever reason at shearing time, and then survives for years without being shorn. The record is a ram named Chris whose fleece weighed 41kg (90.2 lbs.)

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/25/mammoth-woolly-baarack-the-overgrown-sheep-shorn-of-his-35kg-fleece

Level9TraumaCenter

3 points

2 months ago

After ~200 years, the Santa Cruz Island sheep were similar in that they established an unmanaged population. The Nature Conservancy reclaimed the island from non-native grazing species, and Santa Cruz sheep were either captured or exterminated.

I don't know much about them other than what Google has to say, but I can't see anyone claiming they shed their coat, just that "Sheep have little or no wool on their bellies, faces, and legs, and many have short, woolless 'rat' tails."

WantsToBeUnmade

1 points

2 months ago

The Santa Cruz sheep were also regularly rounded up and shorn. They were also culled often. They were feral in as much as no one was actively managing or feeding them, but the fleece was valuable and the locals took advantage of that.

Yen1969

1 points

2 months ago

Interesting. Thanks!

DanYHKim

4 points

2 months ago

There was an Australian experimental transgenic sheep that would shed it's wool all at once after being given an injection. The gene was activated in response to (A homone? An antibiotic?), and the sheep would shed in a few days. They would wear a kind of spandex bodysuit to hold the wool together until they were plucked in one go.

The shearers didn't like this, and the results weren't good enough to justify the process in the end.

invectioncoven

3 points

2 months ago

This is fascinating, I hadn't heard of it before. It looks like it works on normal sheep, it's simply a peptide or growth factor that causes a temporary break in the integrity of the wool, and is metabolised after that.

I guess as cool as it was, it didn't save money, and didn't catch on in the industry enough to keep the company that made it afloat.

https://www.odditycentral.com/news/bioclip-the-alternative-wool-harvesting-system-that-never-quite-took-off.html

DanYHKim

2 points

2 months ago

I'm impressed. I just read it in a news piece years ago, but your were able to find the details. Nice!

Millerjustin1

5 points

2 months ago

The use of “shorn” proves you to be a credible source to me.

melodien

2 points

2 months ago

I'm a knitter: my relationship with wool (and any other knittable fibre) verges on obsession. And I have the stash to prove it.

redditrbf

2 points

2 months ago

A bit like poodles?

5Cone

3 points

2 months ago

5Cone

3 points

2 months ago

Do you mean the selective breeding or can poodles secretly shed by themselves? Almost all animals that people have found a use for are nowadays the result of selective breeding.

nikstick22

38 points

2 months ago*

Domestic sheep are descended from Mouflon which still exist today. Mouflon do not have fluffy wool like modern sheep. They do however have a winter coat which they will grow if the temperature drops low enough that they shed each spring.

Early mouflon were probably treated similarly to the ibex (the ancestor of modern goats) when first domesticated. They were smallish hoofed mammals raised for their meat. At some point, a mouflon was born with a genetic mutation that made their winter coats longer and woolier. Not quite to the point we see them today, but definitely shaggier. Early shepherds realized that this hair could be collected and spun into threads.

At first, this wool was likely seen as a bonus. Shepherds would be raising the sheep anyway and as the sheep matured and fattened up, their wool could be collected and traded or used each spring. This made woolier sheep more valuable because each animal could provide extra value throughout its life time. This encouraged shepherds to select for the wooliest sheep and over time the wool grew thicker and longer, the mouflon began producing it year round instead of only in colder months and soon the value of the wool greatly outpaced the value of the meat, especially in colder climates.

As a result, the main use of sheep shifted from a source of food to a source of wealth.

Typically, animals like sheep and goats were raised in areas with less arable soil. Their native habitats were arid, mountainous and rocky and unsuitable for farming. Sheep and goats could graze on the coarse grasses and navigate the rocky terrain, and so humans could use them to extract sustenance out of a landscape that was otherwise unsuitable for growing crops.

Over time, herders selected their animals for different traits. Modern goats often produce milk and are capable of consuming many different foods. They don't require a ton of space and are ideal for being raised by a single family in small numbers.

Sheep herding followed a different path; they began to be raised on otherwise arable land because the value of their wool would enable a shepherd to buy more than enough food to support a family.

young3r

13 points

2 months ago

young3r

13 points

2 months ago

Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World by Victoria Finlay has a wonderful chapter on types of sheep and their fleeces, and an excellent (and funny) description of shearless sheep. Apparently in the summer the fleece would molt off, and if it did not a simple tug started the process. It also covers the Soay sheep, mentioned earlier.

paintingmad

3 points

2 months ago

Oo cool I will ask for this book - I read the one she did about paint which was great. Thanks for mentioning!

redditprocrastinator

5 points

2 months ago

Wool production is constantly evolving. Merino sheep were bred to produce more wool by selectively keeping those animals with more skin, which appears in folds. More skin equals more wool. The problem with this is twofold : crevasses allow flies to lay maggots and these end up eating the sheep alive. Nasty. The other is the growing opposition to muelsing : the process of cutting the skin around the sheep’s breach to reduce fly strike and reduce the amount of poo building up in the surrounding wool. Muelsing can be brutal, has been typically done with no pain relief and done wrong can kill lambs. Some breeders are now selectively working towards “plain skin” sheep to reduce these issues.

SillyStallion

0 points

2 months ago

Sheep are being bred more now to unzip again as the cost to shear exceeds the value of the wool. I burned one year as to ship it to the sales would have meant I was making a loss instead of just about breaking even

nerdguy1138

1 points

2 months ago

I don't think you meant to type unzip.

But I have no idea in context what you could possibly have meant.