The Chinese zodiac celebrated the start of the Year of the Sheep — and goat and ram — on Feb 19, 2015. The Chinese lump goats in with sheep when it comes to lunar years. The African African continent is No. 2 for goats, accounting for 33.8 percent of the global population after Asia. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about sheep and goats in Africa.
It is believed there are more than 1,000 different breeds of sheep around the world, and they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Many of these breeds are found in Africa, including major subspecies such as fine wool, hair, carpet and the Barbary sheep pictured here.
The West African dwarf is the dominant breed in Southwest and Central Africa, including Nigeria, where it has been documented as being a slow-growing breed. These sheep are usually black and white, and the meat is eaten.
There are more than a billion sheep on record around the world, and sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated on a global scale. In Africa, dominant sheep breeds include the fat-tailed type, which has large deposits of fat around its tail area.
The Chinese lump goats in with sheep when it comes to lunar years, and in Africa goats are incredibly important as a food source and also a way to help alleviate poverty. Many scholarly papers have been written about their importance.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to numerous different goat breeds. These are grouped into meat goats that include indigenous goat breeds such as the Boer goat from South Africa; and milk goat breeds such as the Saanen, Alpine and Toggenburg; as well as mohair breeds like the angora goat. Goats are notoriously stubborn, as this one in the tree shows.
Africans generally keep goats for their meat, milk, hair and skin. But goats also can provide their owners with a variety of socio-economic services and products. In some African societies, goats can be used as a form of marriage dowry.
When it comes to the total number of goats in the world, the African continent is No. 2 in population statistics, accounting for 33.8 percent of the global population, after Asia, which has 59.7 percent of the world’s goats.
Many charity organizations focus on goat sponsorship for needy families. According to World Vision: “Goats also give a much-needed income boost by providing offspring and extra dairy products for sale at the market.”
One healthy dairy goat can provide up to 16 cups of milk per day. Goats’ milk is considered easier to digest than cows’ milk and to be an excellent source of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients.
Goats are easily adaptable animals, and can flourish in pretty much any environment, including in townships. Having a goat can help in agriculture. Goats are known to produce manure valuable in fertilizing vegetable crops.
Sheep are prized for their milk, cheese and meat. While goats are found in much of sub-Saharan Africa, sheep farming is mostly a North African tradition.
Persians were the first to import woolly sheep into North Africa for trade through the Sinai. They began to be domesticated around 6000 B.C. in Iran, although the history of the domesticated sheep goes back even earlier to between 11000 and 9000 B.C. Sheep are thought to be among the first animals domesticated by mankind. Evidence of sheep has been found on rock art in Africa. Ancient Egyptians had sheep 7000-to-8000 years ago. Sheep have always been part of subsistence farming in Africa, but today the only country that farms significant numbers of sheep commercially is South Africa, with 28.8 million head.
Source: History Of Domestic Sheep