Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Warren C. Foote


Warren C. Foote


Thomas D. Bunch


Keith L. Dixon


This study was part of a program to develop new genotypes of sheep (Ovis spp.) and goats (Capra spp.) which are more useful for food and fiber production. The study examined the influence of domestication on behavioral and physiological traits of ewes and lambs, the influence of a single or twin offspring on ewe and lamb behaviors, and general relationships between ewes and lambs during the lambs' first month of life.

Domestication has caused the intensities of observed traits to diverge greatly from the tendencies shown by wild populations. Domestication has produced increases in measurements associated with maternal care, discovery learning, tolerance or inclination for closeness with conspecifics, length of the breeding season, fertility, birth weight, and growth rate. Behaviors associated with imitative learning have decreased with domestication. Domestication has not altered the length of estrous cycle nor length of gestation. The partly domestic groups were intermediate to the most domestic and wild groups for three traits: maternal care, birth weight, and growth rate. However, other hybridization factors apparently altered the intermediate position of the partly domestic groups for the remaining traits: learning in the young, proximity of conspecifics, and fertility. The study's findings indicated that the development of new crossbreeds is an advantageous method of improving sheep and goat productivity.

Some behavioral differences between ewes and their single lambs and ewes and their twin lambs resulted from the earlier physical development of singles as compared to twins: Singles played more and spent less time close to their mothers. Mothering capacities, sibling competition, and a sibling bond caused behavioral differences between ewes and their twin young and ewes and their single young: Twins suckled more, gained less weight, spent more time close to their mothers, stood more, received less sniffing from their mothers than did singles. The ewe-lamb bond did not vary between ewes and their single lambs and ewes and their twin lambs.

The high occurrence of simultaneous behaviors and the maintenance of close contact between ewes and their offspring and between twins contributed to the cohesion and organization of the flock.