Lambs vs Sheep — 5 Major Differences Explained

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Updated: June 21, 2022
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Key Points

  • The term “lamb” refers to a baby sheep.
  • Sheep are also some of the most successfully domesticated animals in the world, as well as some of the first.
  • Lambs are smaller than adult sheep with long, lanky legs and shorter coats.

Do you sometimes look at lambs and sheep and wonder if they’re related? There’s a good reason lambs and sheep look similar. A lamb is a baby sheep.

A female sheep is known as a ewe, and a male sheep is known as a ram. Their offspring are called lambs.

Sheep (Ovis aries) were among the first and most successful domesticated animals in the world. They have been part of human society for thousands of years. We still depend on sheep and lambs for many things, including wool, meat, and milk.

There are millions of domesticated sheep and lambs in the world, and there are also many wild sheep species. Examples of wild sheep include the Rocky Mountain bighorn, the stone sheep and the chamois, and the ibex. Popular domesticated breeds include merino, Suffolk, and cheviot sheep.

Comparing Lamb vs Sheep

LambSheep
Size5 to 12 pounds150 to 300 pounds
CoatSoft and fluffyShaggy
HornsNoneLarge and curly
DietEwe milkGrasses and legumes
SociabilityWith its mother and siblingsAlone or in a flock

The 5 Key Differences Between Sheep and Lambs Explained

Lambs and sheep share many similar features, which isn’t surprising since they are the same animal at different ages. All the same, they have more than one major difference.

1. Lamb vs Sheep: Size

Lambs are noticeably smaller than adult sheep. A newborn lamb might weigh from 5 to 10 pounds at birth. Fully grown sheep are much larger, and wild sheep are usually even larger.

The largest sheep species is the argali (Ovis ammon), a wild sheep native to Mongolia. It can stand 4 feet tall and weigh from 200 to more than 700 pounds. Hunting and deforestation have made the argali endangered.

2. Lamb vs Sheep: Coat

Although both lambs and sheep produce wool, there is a difference in their coats. Lamb’s wool is softer and more delicate than sheep’s wool.

3. Lamb vs Sheep: Horns

Most lambs don’t have horns. Male lambs might have tiny bumps that resemble horns, but they are nowhere near as big as a ram’s horns.

4. Lamb vs Sheep: Diet

A lamb drinks ewe milk during its first few weeks of life. After that, it eats the normal sheep diet of grasses, flowers, and legumes.

5. Lamb vs Sheep: Sociability

Baby lambs usually hang out with their mother and siblings. After they become yearlings, they live in the pasture close to their family members. Domestic sheep are social. Wild sheep are more solitary and spend their time roaming the mountainside alone.

Other Differently Named Baby Animals

Baby animals are usually not termed baby followed by whatever animal it is; there is usually a different term used. As lamb is to sheep, these other baby animals are:

  • Puppy (dog)
  • Joey (kangaroo)
  • Calf (cow, hippo, buffalo, etc.)
  • Pup (seal, shark, hamster, etc.)
  • Cub (bear, cheetah, hyena, raccoon, etc.)
  • Hatchling (reptiles, emus, squids)
  • Fledgling (birds)

Summary: Lambs vs Sheep

LambsSheep
5-10 lbs200-700 lbs
Soft, delicate woolThick, sturdy wool
Male lambs lack hornsMale sheep have horns
Lambs drink milkSheep eat grass, flowers, legumes
Lambs associate with their mother & siblingsDomesticated: social
Wild: solitary

Up next…

Lambs, baby sheep, are extremely cute and cuddly looking. Sheep are some of the best domesticated animals, and so are these:

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is a Lamb a Baby Sheep?

Yes, a lamb is a baby sheep.

Why Do We Eat Lamb but Not Sheep?

We eat sheep, but you may not be familiar with sheep dishes since few people refer to it as “sheep meat.” If you have ever eaten mutton or hogget, you have eaten an adult sheep. Mutton is flavorful meat that’s popular in Asia and the U.K.

Are Sheep and Lambs Related?

A lamb is a sheep that is a year old or younger. When it’s between one and two years old, it’s known as a yearling. After that, it’s an adult sheep. An adult female is a ewe, and an adult male is a ram or buck. A castrated male sheep is called a wether.

Is a Lamb a Goat or a Sheep?

A lamb is a sheep. Goats are similar to sheep, but they’re a distinct species. A baby goat is known as a kid.

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