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sheep
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Latin, ovis.

Sheep are only rarely and incidentally recorded in Great Domesday. Little Domesday and the
satellite texts reveal, however, that data on demesne (but not peasant) livestock was collected, providing reasonably complete data on demesne flocks for Little Domesday, and for Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Devon and Somerset in the Great Domesday satellites.

Between them, these sources record some 300,000 sheep. Given the woefully inadequate coverage, it is certain that sheep outnumbered human beings in Domesday England, possibly by a considerable margin. It has indeed been argued by Peter Sawyer that there were more sheep in England in 1086 than at the height of the medieval boom, in the early fourteenth century, and considerably more than in the fifteenth century. Like those merchants, their Anglo-Saxon and Norman predecessors might have proclaimed:

I praise God and ever shall,
it is the sheep hath paid for all

If sheep were farmed on this scale, then their wool was probably the major English export and the source of large foreign earnings, as it certainly was within half a century of Domesday, when Henry of Huntingdon marvelled at the foreign earnings of the 'flocks without number' and their 'precious wool'.

See Peter H. Sawyer, 'The wealth of England in the eleventh century', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol. 15 (1965), pages 145-64; James Campbell, The Anglo-Saxon State (2000).

See also
appurtenances.