Thankful for Sheep

The holiday season gives us pause to consider all that we are grateful for.

Spin Off Editorial Staff Nov 15, 2023 - 3 min read

Thankful for Sheep Primary Image

We’re thankful for their companionship, weed control, meat—but especially for their wool. Photo by Analogicus on Pixabay

The turkey is the iconic animal of Thanksgiving, which is coming up next week in the United States and has already happened for our neighbors in Canada. While we’re giving our thanks, on Thanksgiving or any day, let’s be sure to save a special word of gratitude for sheep.  From the first primitive-breed sheep to the improved and carefully bred examples we have today, our ovine friends have done so much for humanity.

Since they were first domesticated, sheep have quietly been there for us, whether adapting to a wide range of temperatures and uses or waiting patiently on islands off the coast where they waited to be of service. Companionship, weed control, meat, but especially wool. . . . You could argue that sheep should replace dogs in the honor of “man’s best friend.”

The primitive breeds such as Shetland, Icelandic, Navajo-Churro, and Jacob serve as all-purpose sheep, offering some sort of wool for every occasion. Soft and fine? The undercoat can be next-to-skin soft and beautiful. Strong and durable? The outercoat is coarse and suitable for hardwearing items. Bored with white? Primitive breed sheep come in a rainbow of colors (well, a brown and black rainbow).  Long before we figured out how to make wool shears, sheep’s wool kept us warm and dry.

The Jacob sheep is a rare breed known for its spotted fleece and multiple horns, producing soft and lofty fiber that’s favored by handspinners. Photo courtesy of Robin Lynde

Once we developed the ability to shear and started breeding for desired traits, sheep came to serve so many purposes. Size, dyeability of fleece, diverse ranges of micron counts, all these things sheep gave us. There is a breed of sheep for every need.


And they’re darn cute, too!

Learn more about rare-breed sheep plus tips for spinning their wool with these great articles and other resources:

Originally published April 13, 2016; updated November 15, 2023.