5 Things You Didn't About Dolly the Sheep

On this day in 1996, Dolly the sheep—the first mammal to have been successfully cloned from an adult cell, was born at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Here are 5 things you didn't know about Dolly the sheep...


The Sheep Was Named After a Country Singer # Dolly wasn’t the only sheep cloned from the same adult. Her clone siblings were named Daisy, Dianna, Debbie and Denise. Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, who was the embryologist that led the science team that cloned Dolly; in fact, he was the one who suggested the name. He believed that Dolly Parton, who was the singer of such famous country songs as “I Will Always Love You” was a fitting name because the sheep had been made using cells from a mammary gland. He thought it would be difficult to think of mammary glands that were more impressive than those of Dolly Parton.

She Wasn’t the First Cloned Mammal # It is hoped that cloning techniques can be used for research and maybe even to treat diseases in the future. Cloning produces an organism that is identical to another genetically, and it is a common way to reproduce among plants, bacteria or insects that reproduce asexually. Cloning had been conducted before and included experiments using sheep, cows and mice, but those were cloned from embryo DNA, not from adult DNA. Debbie was the first time DNA from an adult animal had been used.


Dolly Was Introduced to a Ram and Gave Birth to Healthy Lambs Dolly was mated with a ram and had six lambs over the years. Bonnie was the first and was born in 1998; Rosie and Sally were born the next year; and a set of triplets named Cotton, Lucy and Darcy were born a year later. No evidence of problems with her lambs was found even though their mother had been a cloned sheep.

Dolly Did Not Die Early Because She Was Cloned Although a sheep of the same breed as Dolly would normally live 10 or 11 years, Dolly developed severe arthritis and lung cancer and was euthanized in early 2003 at age 6 1/2. Since the cells she was cloned from came from an adult sheep that was six, there was some concern that it might affect the clone’s lifespan. However, thirteen additional sheep were cloned using the same cell batch that Dolly came from and developed normally without signs of illness.

The Sheep Is on Display at a Museum Dolly was stuffed and mounted and is now a popular exhibit in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland. Current research by The Roslin Institute is displayed at the exhibit, along with an interactive section on the creation of transgenic animals.