Why can’t domestic sheep naturally shed their winter coats?

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Why can’t domestic sheep naturally shed their winter coats?

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Because we selectively bred them to *not* do that. We bred that behavior out of them, so that their coats would grow continuously *without* naturally shedding.

Because they’ve been selectively breed over past ~10,000 years to grow excessive coats and to maintain those coats until actively sheared by a human. It’s both a behavioral and physical change as wild sheep would naturally lose their coats either via molting behaviors (scratching up against trees & rocks) or through non-domesticated life (just moving through branches and underbrush and getting it continuously removed). We’ve just selectively breed sheep to reduce the molting *behavior*, put them on farms free from the brambles and branches that would naturally remove the coats, and changed them physically to grow thicker, hardier coats that don’t naturally molt.

Because they’re mutants. Wild sheep have fur that it not curly, and they shed it annually. If you keep them in a pen, you may be able to gather the hair, but it isn’t wool. It can’t be spun into thread or yarn, although it can be made into felt.

At some point in the early Bronze Age, probably in Eastern Europe, somebody had a mutated sheep with weirdo fluff fur. The farmers found the fur useful, so they bred the weird sheep and every domestic sheep is descended from it.

I don’t know if anyone has tried to isolate the wool gene in bones, but that bronze age time period shows a distinct increase in sheep bones vs. goat bones in archaeological sites. But those are fairly difficult to tell apart, once they’re chopped up for food.

Some breeds still do, and as the price of wool plummets because we insist on wearing plastic fleeces for warmth, that is becoming more popular for meat breeds as it saves the cost of shearing. But if the wool is saleable it’s far more convenient for the farmer to have the fleece taken off in one piece neatly and safely that to have it falling off in fields, which is why the shedding was bred out when wool was better valued as a natural resource.

Because we want sheep for wool, if the sheep shed themselves then we get less wool. So it’s better (for us) to breed the sheep that don’t shed, that way they grow more wool which we can shed ourselves and use.

As long as the sheep have a human that cares for them, then it is a great deal for both parties where sheep get food, shelter and protection while humans get wool.