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Fascinating facts about sheep

Sheep are the stars of the 2008 Merced County Fair. The fair's theme is "Come Rock With The Flock." This year's celebration is a salute to sheep, one of Merced County's top agricultural products. From a cooking contest (Shepherd's Pie) to 4-H and FFA students showing their lambs, this 117th fair will be all about sheep.The fair is Tuesday, July 15 through Sunday, July 20 and is presented by the 35th District Agricultural Association. Here are some fascinating facts about sheep:

- People have been raising sheep for 1,000 years.

- Spinning wool into thread began about 5,000 years ago.

- There are about 1 billion sheep on the planet.

- There are about 45 breeds of sheep in the U.S. and more than 900 in the world.

- Sheep's milk has more protein and fat than cow's milk.

- Lamb is the lowest in cholesterol of all red meats.

- When lambs are six months old they are considered to be fully-grown.

- The average life span of a sheep is 7 years.

- A baby lamb can identify its mother by her bleat.

- Sheep have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of hearing.

- One pound of wool can make ten miles of yarn.

- There are 150 yards of wool in a baseball.

- The small intestines from 11 sheep are needed to make 1 tennis racket.

- Ewes typically give birth to twins.

- A one-year old sheep is called a hogget. A two-year old sheep is called a two-tooth.

- Lambs have tails at birth but they're cut off or docked before they are a month old to keep the lambs clean and healthy.

- Sheep grow two teeth a year until they have eight. They only have lower teeth that press against the upper palette.

- Sheep fleece must be removed in a single piece and a good sheep shearer can shear as many as 125 sheep in a day.

- Not all rams have horns and there are some hornless breeds. But there are some breeds where all the sheep have horns, even the ewes.

- Clothes made from wool won't burn, they're fire resistant. Wool clothing keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

- The American Merino are fine-wooled sheep raised for their high quality wool that's made into fine garments. Medium-wooled sheep like the Hampshire are raised for their meat but their wool is made into blankets. The wool from coarse-wooled sheep like the Scottish Blackface is used to make rugs and mattresses.

- In Germany, the East Friesian breed is a dairy sheep raised for milk production.

- In France, milk from Roquefort sheep is used to make Roquefort cheese.

- Veterinarians use sutures made from sheep intestines when performing surgery on cats, dogs and other pets because the natural material helps avoid complications that sometimes occur with synthetic materials.

- When Woodrow Wilson was President, the First Lady had sheep graze on the White House lawn to keep it neat and well trimmed. Now that's one way to save on gas.

- President James Madison wore an inaugural jacket made from the wool of sheep raised on his Virginia farm.

- If you see a sheep on its back, lend a hand! A sheep can't get up from that position.

- Sheep intestines can be made into everything from instrument strings to sausage casings.

- Sheep fat and fatty acids are ingredients in dog food, crayons, candles, floor wax, brake fluid, asphalt, shaving cream, margarine, explosives, antifreeze, insecticides and sunscreen.

- Sheep hides and wool are made into drumheads, artists brushes, rug pads, insulation and asphalt binder. By-products from bones, horns and hooves go into buttons, combs, wallpaper paste, dice, fertilizer, piano keys, syringes and emery boards.