Do all wool-bearing animals, especially sheep and alpaca, need to be regularly shorn to maintain their health? Is it true that sheep's wool will grow to the point where it threatens the sheep's life if it is never shorn?

If this is true for some animals, is it because of a long history of domestication and breeding for wool production?


3 Answers 3


While shedding does indeed occur as previously stated, it is a well known occurence that dense and curly fur/wool tends to get clutted even after releasing from the hair folicles (ask anyone with a hairy cat or dog or look into "deshedding", its a whole industry in itself). This is especially the case for livestock that has been selectively bred for their coat. Some of these domestic breeds are unable to adequately shed their coat, which can cause infections and other health problems.

Another thing to take into account is that various locations are too hot to naturally inhabit sheep. In this case, the sheep could die from overheating unless sheared.

From an ethical point of view, this situation only really occurs because these sheep are bred in the first place. In the wild, they'd probably end up dying quite fast in most parts of the world.

Suggested Reading: Official Statement from the American Society of Animal Science Board of Directors on sheep shearing


Wild sheep shed their excess wool. Domesticated breeds, other than those specifically bred to grow wool non-stop, also shed annually.



Though I cannot actually answer the question, if I understand the implication of the question, then the idea is "checkmate, animal lover! We need to shear the sheep, otherwise it will die! Therefore I should be able to keep my farm animals." The fallacy here is that there is no reason why people should continue to breed these sheep in the first place so that they need to be sheared. For obviously nature would not have developed animals that cannot survive on their own.

  • You might prefer to interpret this question as "Which species of wool-bearing animals have been bred for human dependence, and can we reverse that process?"
    – Nic
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 21:45

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