How long does a sheep live? What life expectancy?


The length of life is a matter of genes. The life of each species is organized around the transmission of genes, in connection with demographic strategies. This is ultimately what frames longevity. This is ultimately only marginally impacted by living conditions: even if the latter are optimal, this will never double what genetics initially programmed. In any case, when you do not know a species, it is difficult to know its average lifespan. This article discusses the life expectancy of the sheep and elements related to the end of its life.

The world record and the others

The oldest sheep in the world died in 2009. It is a sheep named Lucky. She has lived her entire life on a farm in the state of Victoria. She had entered the Guinness Book of Records in September 2007. She was then 21 years, 5 months and 3 days old. She eventually died just over 2 years later, at the age of 23, 6 months and 28 days. This record is very far from the usual lifespan to which a sheep can claim. Indeed, the average is established between 10 and 12 years old, all races combined. But some individuals can escape this average to reach the age of 20 and over.

The life of the sheep

Nature is organized around two demographic strategies. A first strategy consists in favoring reproduction to the detriment of longevity. The species which adopted it have a rapid growth, an early sexual maturity, a high fertility but also a high mortality. Parental investment is low. The best-known species adopting this strategy are mosquitoes and mice.

The second strategy is characterized by a slower pace. Sheep is one of the species that fits into this one. Growth is slower, sexual maturity later, fertility lower but the survival rate higher. Parental investment is important.

Relative to the average lifespan, the sexual maturity of the sheep occurs at an age comparable to that experienced by humans. For the latter, girls reach their sexual maturity around 11 years old for a life expectancy of about 73 years (all populations combined). For sheep, the ewe generally reaches sexual maturity between 6 and 8 months.

Rustic sheep live longer

Interestingly, wild sheep such as the bighorn sheep, which are unfamiliar with many predators, have a life expectancy comparable to domestic sheep. However, it is important to remember that sheep from rustic breed have a longer lifespan than improved breeds. A hardy breed thus more often approaches the 15 years than other races. Breeding work generally has a negative impact on breeds because the genetic heritage is depleted over time. Here is an overview of the most famous hardy sheep breeds.

The Rava breed is originally from the Massif Central. This makes this sheep an excellent walker, resistant to large variations in temperature and particularly at ease in mountainous terrain. The ewes of this breed are highly valued for their ability to give birth without difficulty. In addition, they take good care of their lambs and can even adopt some, which is very appreciated by a breeder.

The Black-headed Manech breed is generally chosen for its milk production (it is the milk from these sheep that is used to make Ossau-Iraty AOC cheese), especially since it is easy to milk. It is a breed that was once present in the Pyrenees, hence its adaptation to difficult terrain.

the Ouessant sheep is perhaps the best known of all because it is notably the smallest breed in the world. It supports poor pastures very well, and fits perfectly into heathland vegetation and landscapes where water is scarce. However, it is of little interest to breeders because it is not very productive and not very prolific. On the other hand, its hardiness makes it an animal very popular with eco-grazing enthusiasts.

The Solognote breed is very resistant to diseases and internal parasites. It is also particularly hardy and knows how to live in environments where vegetation is poor and woody. This sheep is therefore very useful for enhancing the poor undergrowth but also the banks of the river.

The Grivette breed is appreciated by breeders because ewes have many qualities: very prolific, easy lambing, good milk production, good mother and calm temperament. It can very well evolve in the mountains.

Do a good deed by adopting a cull sheep?

A cull sheep is a sheep that’s too old to breed. It can also be an animal with gangrenous mastitis which prevents it from producing milk because, if the ewe can be saved, this disease causes partial or total loss of the udders. In both cases, they are no longer profitable animals for a breeder who has to get rid of them. So it can be slaughter or adoption. Remember, however, that the company of another sheep is essential for that sheep’s well-being. Sheep is a gregarious animal, capable of let yourself die if he’s alone. It is therefore necessary to adopt at least two sheep to meet part of their needs.

The end of the sheep’s life

Many sheep owners find themselves facing the end of their sheep’s life without knowing what to do with it.

If you have heard of the 40 kg rule which allows a pet to be buried on land that you own, as long as it does not weigh more than 40 kg, know that this does not apply to pets. sheep. Indeed, it is compulsory to have the body of the sheep removed and destroyed by a approved rendering company. The carcass of a sheep is indeed animal waste likely to harm public health and spread disease.

But before that, if the state of health of the sheep is not satisfactory, even though the animal is approaching 10 years, or even having passed it, the owner may find himself confronted with the question of euthanasia. The decision to end the life of an animal may indeed be necessary. Here is a series of questions that can guide the decision:

  • Is the animal in pain? If so, can it be relieved?
  • Is the animal likely to be cured?
  • Has the animal retained a good degree of autonomy?

If some have a hunter culture, they will easily find the resources to kill their animal. For the others, the only way is to resort to a veterinary which offers a practical and animal-friendly service. This represents a sum which can exceed 50 euros, but it is perhaps the price to pay to continue to spend peaceful nights.