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My nation is located in northern Eurasia, ranging from the Kola peninsula to Alaska, so LOTS of Taiga climate. It is a nation of nordic origin, and with humanoid bears instead of humans.

So...what would be the reason to have LOTS of sheep. In fact, having many more sheep than cattle, much more than the country needs to feed itself. Millions and millions of sheep. As soon as you leave a big city, you see normal farms, but lots of pastures with sheep.

We also have cows and pigs and poultry, but the most abduant farm animal is the sheep.

What could be the reasons for sheep being in the place of cows?

As a bonus, how could such a giant population of sheep be maintained, and how could this have developed?

I am aiming for the early medieval ages as the start of the "sheep boom". Did the Vikings bring it to my nation? Did the sheep come from Asia?

EDIT: The sheep are used for wool and milk, but the main purpose of the sheep is to be slaughtered for their delicious meat.

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    $\begingroup$ cure insomnia on a global scale $\endgroup$ – Spacemonkey Jun 1 '15 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Do these have to be domesticated sheep, or could they be wild sheep? I could easily accept that this place has sheep instead of deer or kangaroos as a local nuisance type of animal. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 1 '15 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Spacemonkey, I misread the title of this question and thought it was asking for reasons for having lots of sleep. $\endgroup$ – Vectornaut Jun 1 '15 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ This is an Idea Generation question; voting to close. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jun 1 '15 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ A good reason why you'd have many sheep is because you have little else; imagine that the black plague hit cattle instead of humans; worse still, few resistant cattle are the chewy kind that makes keeping cattle as livestock only profitable to feed your delicious lion cubs (as people got sick of eating just lamb all day). $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Jun 2 '15 at 9:43
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Sheep reproduces fairly quick compared to other livestock.

It produces wearable cloth without slaughter the animal.

It can also produce milk.

If you have a population you need to feed and an easy way to do it, sheep is your go to animal.

Sheep's are also able to live in most environments, the wool keeps them cold in warm areas, and warm in cold areas.

As an added bonus, sheeps eats almost anything, but if there is too little area for the sheeps to feed they will leave the soil barren and muddy.

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Religion - sheep are religious features from at least as early as the 8,000 BC and today, and for your timeperiod the more, the better. They're featured in many cultures in that time, even to the Arab world.

Food, clothing, milk - You said it yourself; mutton-pie, anyone? Not sure if your bear-people need wool clothing, but the bear part probably doesn't.

Beasts of burden - After years of training (and with sheep, we're talking a long time), your bear-people have domesticated the sheep to do some of the labor: pulling carts and plows, turning the grain-grinding-thingy.

Other uses - Bits of sheep can also be found in tennis rackets (strings made of sheep guts), candles and soap (tallow rendered from sheep fat) and most cosmetics and skincare products (lanolin, an emollient found in sheep's wool).

Precedent - it's not without precedent to have a place overrun with sheep. When I lived in New Zealand, there was a ratio of 20 sheep per person.

Flora? - Perhaps in your tundra world, there still exists a fast-growing, pesky grass; and these sheep just love to eat it.

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There are many places where sheep can thrive but cattle cannot, but I'm not sure your taiga is one of them. Areas given over to sheep farming are usually mountainous or hilly uplands with short grasses. I'd have thought the taiga was too cold and swampy for sheep.

Have reindeer instead.

Added later: if this question is set in the same fictional world as your earlier question about why vegetarianism might be outlawed you could combine both by having Hinduism be a strong factor in your society (although possibly practised in secret if you went for my suggested answer). The cow is sacred to Hindus so they don't eat beef. Many of them do eat other meat such as mutton, however (although many others are vegetarian), which would give a reason for sheep to be raised rather than cows.

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As I said, "Ask the Scots. Or do a search on the Highland land clearances." It's a perfectly good, and quite useful, answer, as it points the OP to a real-world example where there were lots and lots of sheep, but few humans, or humanoid bears.

You could also consider the example of New Zealand, where there are about 10 times as many sheep as humans. (Per Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheep_farming_in_New_Zealand )

Now if you're too lazy to follow the links, or do a bit of searching, I'll give you the answers. 1) The wool is more valuable to the land owners than anything that could be grown by human (or humanoid bear) tenants. 2) You have a good export market for meat and wool.

Honestly, some people here really need to stop practicing autoproctology :-)

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A good reason for having a great many sheep would be status. Sheep would be given to increase prestige, would be the mainstay of marriage negotiations, would be like money only more so.

I have more sheep than you, so I'm now king of the hill!

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  • $\begingroup$ Money that requires maintenance, consumes other resources, wanders outside, dies, and gets lost all on its own. Great. Just what I need. Livestock can be a commodity, but it is not a very good store of value. $\endgroup$ – 458 Jun 1 '15 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ The Norse in Greenland had cows as prestige livestock. Winters were so long they had to be carried out to pasture in spring. Compared to status maintenance was not an issue. Unwise perhaps? Well, they did die out.. Several nomad tribes in Africa have herds where the size determines owner status as well. Guarding the herd and livestock theft are highly competitive pastimes for the young warriors. $\endgroup$ – Bookeater Jun 1 '15 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ @fredsbend : livestock was used as currency (or as another form of currency) by nomadic people for quite a long time. $\endgroup$ – vsz Jun 1 '15 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz A valuable item commonly used for trade is not the definition of currency. $\endgroup$ – 458 Jun 1 '15 at 18:28

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