There are a number of different theories regarding the origins of domestic sheep.
However, most sources agree that they originated from mouflon. There are two wild
populations of mouflons still in existence: the Asiatic mouflon which is still found
in the mountains of Asia Minor and southern Iran and the European mouflon of which
the only existing members are on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. These two species
are closely related with the only difference being the redder coloration and different
horn configuration of the Asiatic mouflon. Some sources even hypothesize that the
European mouflon actually developed from the first domestic sheep in European being
allowed to become feral and that all sheep are actually descendants of the Asiatic
Sheep were among the first animals domesticated. An archeological site in Iran produced
a statuette of a wooled sheep which suggests that selection for woolly sheep had begun
to occur over 6000 years ago. The common features of today's sheep were already appearing
in Mesopotamian and Babylonian art and books by 3000 B.C.
Another indication of the early domestication is the fact that they are the only species
of livestock unable to return to a feral or wild state. Selection for wool type, flocking
instinct and other economically important traits over the centuries has resulted in
more than 200 distinct breeds of sheep occurring worldwide. Modern breeding schemes
have also resulted in an increasing number of composite or synthetic breeds which
are the result of a crossing of two or more established breeds.