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I've heard that the current lunar year (for most of 2015) is sometimes called in English the Year of the Goat, Year of the Ram, or Year of the Sheep.

I've also heard that the reason for the different translations is that the hanzi for the year is "羊", which can cover all three options. Is this true?

Also, is the term "羊" ambiguous, or is it merely unambiguously referring to a larger-scale taxon than a single species?

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The Chinese 羊 is more an equivalent to the Caprinae subfamily than to a single species inside this subfamily, to which both the sheep and the goats belong.

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As a northerner, an inner-Mongolian, we consume lamb (OMG, is lamb from sheep? Or from a goat or a Ram?) as our primary meat. I feel when we say 羊, it always means sheep, otherwise we would have said 山羊. And Ram is rare in China, so I don't think 羊 means Ram often.

This is going to be interesting if from a southerner's perspective that 羊 means 山羊 by default because there are more goats in their region. Then I will guess it's the Year of the Goat for them.

It's also interesting why there is not a common term (that an intermediate English speaker like me would know) to describe the Caprinae subfamily than to a single species inside this subfamily, to which both the sheep and the goats belong. I mean, no matter Huskies or Chiwawas or bulldogs, they are all dogs; bull/ox/buffalo are all cows; why on earth there is no term for Sheep/Goat/Ram?

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