This post was written by Amber Zelmer
In the Chinese Zodiac calendar, the ‘Year of the Goat’ is also known as the ‘Year of the Ram.’ A male sheep is also called a ram, so July’s “goat” of the month is actually a sheep! Levi is our only resident sheep here in the Children’s Zoo, so we get a lot of guest questions about him.
Levi is a Jacob sheep, and he has not just two, but FOUR horns. In fact, this breed of sheep can have up to SIX horns! Jacob sheep are a piebald breed of sheep. They are a popular breed in England, although their country of origin is thought to be Syria. In the Book of Genesis, Jacob took every spotted or speckled sheep from his father-in-law’s flock and bred them. Thus the Jacob sheep may be the earliest documented case of selective breeding, and their name is in honor of their original shepherd.
Like all sheep, Levi has wool instead of fur and does not shed his coat in the summer. The keepers here shear Levi every summer to make him more comfortable in the warm Houston weather. This year Levi lost nearly 4 lbs. of wool at his shearing! Though many clothes can be made from wool, the keepers here use the wool as enrichment for the other animals around the zoo. Our mongoose, kookaburra and skunk all enjoyed tossing the wool around or rolling in it. Sometimes the Carnivore keepers will come over and get some of the wool to give to their animals to enjoy as well!
Not only is Levi a provider of entertainment for guests and other animals, he is also a part of our internship program at the Houston Zoo! Levi knows several different behaviors such as turning in a circle, walking around a trainer, and even walking through weave poles! Interns have the opportunity to learn his behaviors from the zookeepers so that they can work with Levi in their spare time. In fact, Levi’s weave pole behavior was taught to him by a former intern! Come visit Levi in the Children’s Zoo, and you may be able to see him working with one of our interns or part-time staff members to keep his skills sharp.