When the terms sheep and lamb are used, it can be difficult to know exactly what each refers to, as they’re used for the same animal.

Learning more about the differences can make it easier to differentiate not only between animals but also spot the differences in their wool, leather, and meat.

Age

All lambs are technically sheep. Lamb is simply a term used for any sheep, of any gender, under the age of 12 months old.

This is the only true defining characteristic that differs between lambs and sheep, although many other things make it easy to spot the difference between lambs and sheep.

Baby sheep
Baby sheep

Weight

Because they’re young, lambs generally weigh less than adult sheep. Lambs weigh, on average, between 80 and 120 pounds, although newborn lambs can weigh as little as 8 pounds.

The weight of an adult sheep varies depending on the gender and the particular variety of sheep, but most sheep weigh between 200 and 350 pounds.

Lamb vs Sheep

Temperaments and Ease of Care

Both lambs and sheep are considered to be relatively easy to care for.

Sheep are herd animals and they will generally follow either a dominant sheep or human, so as long as you’re in control of the lead sheep, you’re in control of the entire flock.

Adult sheep are generally considered to be relatively placid and gentle, although males can sometimes be stubborn or even territorial or aggressive.

A sheepdog can aid in keeping sheep under control or moving them from place to place.

Sheep continuously grow wool, and they will require regular shearing. How often that shearing needs to occur will depend on the type of sheep, the climate, and the health and age of the sheep.

Lambs are almost always gentle, playful, and affectionate. Because they are so young, however, they do require a bit more specialized care, including regular vet visits.

Lambs also regularly need their hooves clipped.

Like sheep, some lambs require regular shearing to keep their coats in check. Other lambs shed their coats periodically and won’t need to be shorn until they reach adulthood.

sheeps in the meadow

Wool

Many people keep sheep because their wool can be shorn and sold many times over the course of the sheep’s life, making sheep a good business investment.

It’s usually relatively easy to sell wool, as the demand for wool doesn’t often decrease and it has a number of uses. Sheep’s wool is thought to be a bit rougher than lamb’s wool.

Lamb’s wool is often softer than sheep’s wool. However, it can be difficult to sell lamb’s wool if the lamb isn’t a specialty variety, as the market for lamb’s wool is smaller and only the finest lamb’s wools are highly sought-after.

Sheep's wool
Sheep’s wool

Leather

As with their wool, lamb’s leather is often more highly prized than sheep’s leather. Lamb’s leather is considered to be softer and finer, but it can sometimes be more difficult to sell.

Sheep’s leather is not as in demand as other leathers, such as cow’s leather. Sheep’s leather is considered to be tougher and less soft than lamb’s leather, but it’s considered to be softer, although less durable, than cow’s leather.

Lamb vs. Mutton

Both lambs and sheep can be used for meat, but the meats produced by the animals are quite different. Mutton is considered to be a sort of utility meat.

It’s generally inexpensive and can feed a large number of people for a low amount of money. Mutton is dark in color and has an intense flavor.

It usually has more fat than lamb meat and can sometimes be tougher. Because of this, mutton is often used for slow cooking recipes, such as in stews.

Lamb meat is lighter in color. It has a milder flavor and is very tender. For many people, lamb meat is a delicacy.

lamb meat chops

Value

The exact value of any lamb or sheep depends on its breed, how it was raised, and what gender it is.

However, lambs are often worth a bit more than sheep. This is because lambs can be used for several things.

They can be left to mature or they can be used for meat, wool, or leather immediately. These items that come from a lamb are also worth more, increasing the value of a live lamb.

Sheep are worth a bit less than lambs, but they can offer a recurring cash flow. Whenever a sheep is shorn, sheep owners can make money, and this can continue throughout the sheep’s entire life.

Adult sheep can also be used for meat or wool. Sheep are also a good way to keep the grass short in pastures, they help to fertilize the soil, and they even aerate the soil with their hooves, so they’re often a good investment for farmers.

many sheep in the meadow

Other Terms for Sheep

Lamb is not the only term used for sheep. The terms ram and ewe are also common.

A ram is any male sheep that’s over the age of 12 months old, while a ewe is any female sheep over this age.

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