Ram, the male of a sheep.
As we propose to treat of the proper management of Sheep, in that article, we shall at present only state the general marks that should characterize the appearance of a good ram, which is intended for the purpose of breeding. Such an animal ought to be large and well proportioned ; his head should be thick and strong, with a broad front; the eyes and nose black ; the neck thick; the body long and tall ; and the tail of considerable length.
Rams are capable of propagating at the age of eighteen months: and, as the fine quality of the wool depends greatly upon the judgment of the breeder, it has been recom -mended to take the advice of some experienced clothier, or wool-stapler ; who, being accustomed to investigate wool, will be able to decide with the greatest accuracy, and also with a view to the breeder's real profit. The coat must likewise be minutely examined, lest it be stitchy-haired ; for, in such case, the wool will be so materially damaged in the course of two years, that the loss cannot be recovered, without changing the whole flock, in the space of twelve or fourteen years.
Beauty of shape, and fineness of wool, however, are not the only distinguishing marks: it will, farther, be necessary to reject the animal, in case he have not a close thick coat along his back, and in which there is plenty of yolk ; as otherwise it may be assumed for certain, that he is not in perfect health.
With respect to the purchasing of rams, circumspect breeders advise to procure them a short time before they are shorn, and from the farmers, graxiers, or owner's house; because the animals may then be seen in their natural state, without the possibility of any fraud or imposition by the vender: besides, the depth or length of the staple may then be easily ascertained. It is, however, by no means agreed as to the proper age for purchasing rams ; and many practical writers are of opinion, that crossing the breed is attended with little advantage : hence, they do not approve of selecting them from distant places. If the farm consist of down -land, it will, on their principles, be advisable to purchase animals bred on a similar soil; if it be inclosed, they should be bought off such land as is not commonable; but, in all cases, it will be proper to obtain them from an inferior soil; for they will then thrive in the new possessor's keeping; whereas, if a contrary plan be pursued, the rams will diminish in fatness, and become less healthy.