Difference between Sheep and Goats

Though, both sheep and goats are in the Caprinae family, the subfamily of Bovidae, the two are significantly different species. The first but not very clear difference is in their appearance, which often confuses people. A goat is slim, whereas a sheep is a bit a flabbier. Keeping that aside, wool is obtained from a sheep, and not from a goat. Without doubt, both sheep and goat meat are consumed; the former is eaten in the west, while the latter is consumed in the Indian sub-continent and Middle East.


Sheep vs Goats

The scientific name for a sheep is Ovis aries. A sheep is an introspective kind of mammal – one among those that are kept as livestock. Sheep are largely used for milk, meat, wool and fleece (sheepskin). Among animal fiber of varied kinds, a sheep’s wool is a highly prevalent one. Usually a baby sheep is referred to as a lamb. Female sheep are called ewes and a male sheep is known as a ram.


The domestic goat, scientifically known as Capra aegagrus hircus, belongs to a goat species that was tamed from southwest Asian and Eastern European wild goats. The goat comes from the Bovidae family and is related to sheep through the Caprinae group. One can find as many as 300 different goat breeds or more in the world. People have been keeping them as pets for years. Also, the milk, skins, and hair of goats are extremely beneficial for people.

Goat offspring are called kids; female goats are called nannies or does; and male goats are termed as billies or bucks.

Sheep vs Goats

The very first and notable difference between a sheep and a goat is in the tails of the two. While a goat keeps its tail in the upward direction, unless it is scared or depressed, a sheep has its tail in the downward position. Usually, the tail of a sheep is cut and made shorter due to health concerns.

When it comes to their tendency to scavenge, goats are natural explorers and choose to eat shrubs or vines or leaves. Goats remain alert and use their hind legs when getting to vegetation. Sheep on the other hand are those foragers who like eating tender grasses or clover. They like to browse near the soil surface and eat forbs.

While sheep have woolly coats, goats grow hair coats. Sheep need to get their coats sheared once a year at the minimum, but goats do not need any combing or shearing.

Comparison Chart

Sheep Goats
Its scientific name is Ovas Aries. Its scientific name is Capra Hircus.
It has 54 chromosomes. It has 60 chromosomes.
They have a coat of wool on them. They have hair on their body.
A sheep’s tail is down and generally docked for health reasons. A goat’s tail is up, provided it is not sick or afraid.
A number of sheep breeds have no horns. Those that do have thick and curved horns. Goats have horns which are narrower, erect and less curved as compared to sheep horns.
Graze on broad-leafed grasses which are close to soil surface. Prefer taking a more nutritious diet such as leaves and shrubs.
Sheep are a chubbier species. Goats are slimmer than sheep.
Sheep are often seen in groups. Goats are snoopy and independent.
Sheep have a mane. Goats have a beard.


You can watch this video to see how a sheep differs from a goat in numerous ways.