Difference Between A Lamb And A Sheep

Ever wondered about the differences between lamb and sheep? It’s a common question, and it’s easier to understand than you might think. Let’s dive into it together, and by the end of this, you’ll be a pro at distinguishing between these two adorable ruminants.

What Is a Lamb?

A lamb is simply a baby sheep, specifically a sheep that is under one year old. Lambs nurse from their mothers and start developing their milk teeth until they are about four or five months old. These little ones are typically weaned from milk and start eating solid food around this age. In the first months of life, lambs are incredibly playful and tend to stay close to their mothers for protection and comfort.

Lambs are often called by different names based on their gender. A young male sheep is called a ram lamb, while a young female is referred to as an ewe lamb.

What Is a Sheep?

A sheep, on the other hand, refers to the adult version of these woolly animals. Once a lamb reaches one year old, it graduates to being called a sheep. Sheep are raised for various purposes, including meat (mutton), milk, and wool. They are social animals and tend to move around in flocks, making them a charming addition to any pasture.

Adult sheep are categorized as:

  • Ewe: An adult female sheep.
  • Ram: An adult male sheep.
  • Wether: A castrated male sheep.

Meat Differences: Lamb vs. Mutton


The age of the sheep significantly influences the type of meat produced. Meat from a young sheep (lamb) is tender and has a mild flavor, which is highly favored in many culinary traditions. Lamb is often slaughtered when it’s between six to eight months old, resulting in meat that is tender and easy to cook.

In contrast, meat from an adult sheep is known as mutton. Mutton has a stronger, gamier flavor and a tougher texture compared to lamb. This difference in taste and texture is due to the older age and the different diet and lifestyle of the mature sheep. Mutton is often used in stews and dishes that benefit from slow cooking to tenderize the meat.

Wool and Skin

Lambs and sheep also differ in their wool and skin quality. Lamb’s wool is softer and finer compared to the coarser wool of mature sheep. This makes lamb’s wool highly prized for certain types of clothing and textiles. Similarly, lambskin is softer and more delicate than sheepskin, making it popular for gloves, belts, and other leather goods.

Physical Characteristics and Behavior

Lambs are smaller, often weighing between 8 to 12 pounds at birth, and are less than half the height of adult sheep. As they grow, they develop their adult teeth by the time they are about one year old. Lambs are known for their playful nature, while sheep tend to be more reserved and stick together in flocks.

Another physical difference is in their horns. Lambs typically do not have horns, while many breeds of sheep develop horns as they mature. These horns grow larger and more pronounced as the sheep age.

Final Thoughts

While lambs and sheep are the same species, they are at different stages of life. Understanding the differences between them can help you appreciate the unique qualities and uses of each. Whether it’s the tender meat of a lamb or the robust flavor of mutton, the soft wool of a lamb, or the sturdy wool of a sheep, each stage of life brings its value.

So next time you see these fluffy animals grazing in a field, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at and appreciate the special characteristics of both lambs and sheep.