All three animals have been mentioned as the key focus in this year’s celebration, which began today, Thursday February 19, 2015, and employs the Chinese zodiac cycle of a rotating troupe of 12 symbolic animals. For instance, this past year, 2014, was the Year of the Horse and 2013 was the Year of the Snake. But why is there such creature confusion this year?
It all branches from the fact that the Chinese use one character for these horned animals — translated as “yang” in Mandarin, when used to mean goat, is seen as something strong with a “quiet spirit.” A sheep is considered gentler and more docile.
Geography can make a difference in what people use to define the year. Sheep are raised in northern China, while goats are more common in southern China, which can play into what the year is called depending on one’s location. Generally, people in mainland China seem to prefer to call it the Year of the Goat.
If you are an English speaker you may just want to go authentic: Year of the Yang.
Here is a closer look at the animals:
A goat is a hardy domesticated ruminant animal that has backward curving horns and (in the male) a beard.
A sheep is a domesticated ruminant animal with a thick woolly coat. Sheep are over one year of age. They have usually produced offspring.
- Sheep and goats have numerous physical differences. Most goats have hair coats that do not require shearing or combing. Most sheep grow woolly coats that need to be sheared at least annually. Lamb tails are usually docked (shortened) whereas goat tails are not.
- Sheep have an upper lip that is divided by a distinct philtrum (groove). The goat does not.
- Male goats have glands beneath their tail. Sheep have face or tear glands beneath their eyes and foot or scent glands between the toes. Male goats develop a distinct odor as they grow in sexual maturity. The odor is very strong during the rut (mating season). Sexually mature rams have much less of an odor, if they have an odor at all.
Sources Cited: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/chinese-new-year-it-year-goat-sheep-or-ram-ewe-n308361