Herc is Officially Old
By Judy Evans
December 3, 2016 6:32am CST
With all my posts about Herc, our pet sheep, I hope you have learnt something about ovines. Here is a lesson about telling the age of sheep. The main indicators are the teeth or to be more precise the permanent incisors. Sheep do not have any teeth on the upper jaw but mature sheep have eight incisors and twenty-four molars on the bottom jaw. Instead there is a dense, hard, fibrous pad. Baby lambs have no teeth. By the age of two months, they have eight temporary incisors. Permanent incisors replace these in pairs with the two central teeth appearing first. When this happens, the sheep is said to be a 'two-tooth' (about 19 months old). As each pair of incisors appear either side of the previous pair, they become a four-, six- then eight-tooth or 'full mouth'. The corresponding ages are roughly 22 months (4-tooth), 32 months (6-tooth), and 36 months (full-mouth). Sheep of the same age may show different dentition depending on breed, dietary conditions and other factors. At some stage after that, a progressive deterioration means the sheep starts to lose teeth. This is described as 'broken mouthed'. Teeth become longer with wide spacing and eventually fall out. Once all the teeth have gone, the sheep is known as a 'gummy'. Herc is now broken-mouthed so is officially old. He kindly agreed to show his 'broken mouth' for the edification of myLot readers.
38 people like this
• Midland, Michigan
I'm not sure that this image edifies me, but it surely is interesting. It looks to me like those incisors are on his upper jaw, but you said they don't ever have teeth on the upper jaw? Did I understand that correctly? So, how old roughly, is Herc? And how long may he live yet? Do you need to feed him more mashed foods or because of the hard, fibrous pad is he still able to eat fairly normally?
• Bunbury, Australia
Sheep only have teeth on the lower jaw. I'll add another photo which shows it better. Herc is around 13 and looks very good at the moment. I'm hoping he'll live another year or two. He eats fairly normally but as he loses more teeth it will get harder for him. He gets some sheep pellets now just to keep him in good condition and I'll increase the amount if he starts to lose weight. I guess it won't be the easiest to eat them but he'll get more nutrition from less food with pellets. Sometimes sheep do better when all their teeth have gone.
• Midland, Michigan
@JudyEv At first it still looked to me like they were coming down from the top not from the bottom. It looks like their teeth might be similar to ours in that the larger section is what they use to maw on much like our molars? I thought those were four teeth with sharp bottoms not flat tops. Thanks for the newer image.
• Gainesville, Florida
@JudyEv I can imagine the animals would probably not like the taste of the toothpaste at all, or the feel of it on their gums and teeth! Or, on the flip side, they may actually love the taste of it and try to eat or swallow it! haha I'm sure they probably make special kinds of toothpastes for animals.
• Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
@judyev Herc is a sweetheart showing his mouth to us! I tink I love him already! Love the name, too! Is it just Herc or short for Hercules or Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot? What does one get a sheep for Christmas and I hope he has a gift for this event!
Having raised lambs for a number of years these are facts I wasn't aware of. I do know how badly those sharp teeth could mangle you whe you tried to get a tablet down their throats. Next season we settled for shots. My son in law was pretty good at doing it for us.