Lambs look pretty small when they are born and they are certainly not very wooly looking, making it look like they do not have any wool, at all. Do lambs have wool when they are born or do they grow it later?
Lambs from wool breed sheep are born with a short coat of wool. The wool is vital to keep the newborn lamb warm. Hair sheep lambs are born with a coat of hair, rather than wool.
Lambs are born with wool
When most lambs are born, they have a short coat of wool already. It can be hard to see the wool, since it is so short, but the wool is there if you look closely.
This wool will continue to grow all of the lamb’s life, similar to your hair, and can get fairly long if the lamb is not shorn once a year.
What does the wool do for a newborn lamb?
Sheep are mammals, like us. We have to keep a minimum body heat to live and the wool helps the lamb keep warm.
Once the ewe (the mom) dries off the lamb, the lamb’s wool functions like a blanket for a newborn child and will keep in heat so the newborn lamb can warm up and stay warm.
Having the ewe lick the lamb dry (yes, that’s how she does it!) will help the lamb get up and moving sooner and get the wool to dry off so that the lamb is protected from the weather.
Is the entire lamb’s body covered in wool?
Quite a bit of the lamb’s body is covered in wool, but absolutely all of it, just most!
The lamb has wool on it’s body, neck and tail. If the lamb is a clean headed breed (no wool on head) like Cheviot or Border Leicester, then the head and legs will be wool free and have hair instead.
Some breeds of sheep naturally have more wool cover, so the lamb may also have wool on top of the head, on the face and down the legs. A breed with lots of wool on the face is a Southdown.
The lamb will still have some hair on it’s face, even if it is one of the breeds with wool on the face and lower legs.
Hair sheep lambs have hair, not wool
There are sheep that do not have a puffy coat of wool to shear, these are called hair sheep since they have hair rather than wool. The hair these sheep have is more like the hair on your dog.
Hair sheep lambs are born with hair, not wool and will continue to have hair throughout their lives.
In colder climates, hair sheep, even lambs, will grow a wooly undercoat to help keep them warm, but it will shed out in the spring on it’s own, rather than being shorn like wool sheep.
Sheep 201: Hair Sheep Primer gives a list of hair sheep breeds and has quite a few pictures if you are interested in learning more about hair sheep breeds.
More of my sheep articles you may be interested in:
Why Do Sheep Need Dewormed? gives you a look into taking care of a flock of sheep and why parasite control is important.