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Forum di sciamanesimo, antropologia e spirito critico

forum di sciamanesimo, antropologia, spirito critico, terapie alternative, esoterismo. Forum of shamanism, anthropology, criticism, alternative therapies and esoterism

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 Pecora - Montone - Ariete

Vedere l'argomento precedente Vedere l'argomento seguente Andare in basso 
Iniziato Sciamano
Iniziato Sciamano

Femminile Serpente
Numero di messaggi : 1826
Data d'iscrizione : 22.03.10
Età : 39
Località : Prov. CN

MessaggioOggetto: Pecora - Montone - Ariete   Gio 2 Set 2010 - 14:29

Buon pomeriggio a tutti,

come promesso eccovi un topic sul montone...e mentre c'ero perchè non parlare anche del suo lato femminile? In fondo abbiamo visto che, come per il toro e il leone, anche la loro controparte femminile ha molto da dirci...

Buona lettura!


Domestic sheep
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Domestic sheep (Ovis aries) are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name "sheep" applies to many species, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over 1 billion, domestic sheep are the most numerous species in their genus.

Sheep are most likely descended from the wild mouflon of Europe and Asia. One of the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural purposes, sheep are raised for fleece, meat (lamb, hogget or mutton) and milk. A sheep's wool is the most widely used animal fiber, and is usually harvested by shearing. Ovine meat is called lamb when from younger animals and mutton when from older ones. Sheep continue to be important for wool and meat today, and are also occasionally raised for pelts, as dairy animals, or as model organisms for science.

Sheep husbandry is practised throughout the majority of the inhabited world, and has been fundamental to many civilizations. In the modern era, Australia, New Zealand, the southern and central South American nations, and the British Isles are most closely associated with sheep production.

Sheep-raising has a large lexicon of unique terms which vary considerably by region and dialect. Use of the word sheep began in Middle English as a derivation of the Old English word scēap; it is both the singular and plural name for the animal. A group of sheep is called a flock, herd or mob. Adult female sheep are referred to as ewes, intact males as rams or occasionally tups, castrated males as wethers, and younger sheep as lambs. Many other specific terms for the various life stages of sheep exist, generally related to lambing, shearing, and age.

Being a key animal in the history of farming, sheep have a deeply entrenched place in human culture, and find representation in much modern language and symbology. As livestock, sheep are most-often associated with pastoral, Arcadian imagery. Sheep figure in many mythologies—such as the Golden Fleece—and major religions, especially the Abrahamic traditions. In both ancient and modern religious ritual, sheep are used as sacrificial animals.

* 1 Description
o 1.1 Breeds
* 2 Diet
* 3 Behavior and intelligence
* 4 Reproduction
* 5 Health
o 5.1 Predation
* 6 History
o 6.1 In Africa
o 6.2 In Europe
o 6.3 In the Americas
+ 6.3.1 North America
+ 6.3.2 South America
o 6.4 In Australia and New Zealand
+ 6.4.1 Animal welfare concerns
* 7 Economic importance
* 8 As food
* 9 In science
* 10 Cultural impact
o 10.1 In religion and folklore
* 11 See also
* 12 Footnotes
* 13 References
* 14 External links


Domestic sheep are relatively small ruminants, usually with a crimped hair called wool and often with horns forming a lateral spiral. Domestic sheep differ from their wild relatives and ancestors in several respects, having become uniquely neotenic as a result of man's influence.[1][2] A few primitive breeds of sheep retain some of the characteristics of their wild cousins, such as short tails. Depending on breed, domestic sheep may have no horns at all (polled), or horns in both sexes (as in wild sheep), or in males only. Most horned breeds have a single pair, but a few breeds may have several.[3]

Another trait unique to domestic sheep (as compared to wild ovines, not other livestock) is their wide variation in color. Wild sheep are largely variations of brown hues, and variation with species is extremely limited. Colors of domestic sheep range from pure white to dark chocolate brown and even spotted or piebald.[4][5] Selection for easily dyeable white fleeces began early in sheep domestication, and as white wool is a dominant trait it spread quickly. However, colored sheep do appear in many modern breeds, and may even appear as a recessive trait in white flocks.[4][5] While white wool is desirable for large commercial markets, there is a niche market for colored fleeces, mostly for handspinning.[6] The nature of the fleece varies widely among the breeds, from dense and highly crimped, to long and hair-like. There is variation of wool type and quality even among members of the same flock, so wool classing is a step in the commercial processing of the fibre.

Depending on breed, sheep show a range of heights and weights. Their rate of growth and mature weight is a heritable trait that is often selected for in breeding.[7] Ewes typically weigh between 45 and 100 kilograms (99 and 220 lb), and rams between 45 and 160 kilograms (99 and 350 lb).[8] Mature sheep have 32 teeth. As with other ruminants, the front teeth in the lower jaw bite against a hard, toothless pad in the upper jaw. These are used to pick off vegetation, then the rear teeth grind it before it is swallowed. There are eight lower front teeth in ruminants, but there is some disagreement as to whether these are eight incisors, or six incisors and two incisor-shaped canines. This means that the dental formula for sheep is either I:0/4 C:0/0 P:3/3 M:3/3, or I:0/3 C:0/1 P:3/3 M:3/3.[9] There is a large toothless gap between the front "biting" teeth and the rear "grinding" teeth.

For the first few years of life it is possible to calculate the age of sheep from their front teeth, as a pair of milk teeth is replaced by larger adult teeth each year, the full set of eight adult front teeth being complete at about four years of age. The front teeth are then gradually lost as sheep age, making it harder for them to feed and hindering the health and productivity of the animal. For this reason, domestic sheep on normal pasture begin to slowly decline from four years on, and the average life expectancy of a sheep is 10 to 12 years, though some sheep may live as long as 20 years.[3][10][11]

Sheep have good hearing, and are sensitive to noise when being handled.[12] Sheep have horizontal slit-shaped pupils, possessing excellent peripheral vision; with visual fields of approximately 270° to 320°, sheep can see behind themselves without turning their heads.[6][13] However, sheep have poor depth perception; shadows and dips in the ground may cause sheep to baulk. In general, sheep have a tendency to move out of the dark and into well-lit areas,[14] and prefer to move uphill when disturbed. Sheep also have an excellent sense of smell, and, like all species of their genus, have scent glands just in front of the eyes, and interdigitally on the feet. The purpose of these glands is uncertain,[15] but those on the face may be used in breeding behaviors.[7] The foot glands might also be related to reproduction,[7] but alternative reasons, such as secretion of a waste product or a scent marker to help lost sheep find their flock, have also been proposed.[15]

Sheep and goats are closely related as both are in the subfamily Caprinae. However, they are separate species, so hybrids rarely occur, and are always infertile. A hybrid of a ewe and a buck (a male goat) is called a sheep-goat hybrid (only a single such animal has been confirmed), and is not to be confused with the genetic chimera called a geep. Visual differences between sheep and goats include the beard and divided upper lip unique to goats. Sheep tails also hang down, even when short or docked, while the short tails of goats are held upwards. Sheep breeds are also often naturally polled (either in both sexes or just in the female), while naturally polled goats are rare (though many are polled artificially). Males of the two species differ in that buck goats acquire a unique and strong odor during the rut, whereas rams do not.[11]


The domestic sheep is a multi-purpose animal, and the more than 200 breeds now in existence were created to serve these diverse purposes.[3][16] Some sources give a count of a thousand or more breeds, but these numbers cannot be verified.[6][11] Almost all sheep are classified as being best suited to furnishing a certain product: wool, meat, milk, hides, or a combination in a dual-purpose breed. Other features used when classifying sheep include face color (generally white or black), tail length, presence or lack of horns, and the topography for which the breed has been developed. This last point is especially stressed in the UK, where breeds are described as either upland (hill or mountain) or lowland breeds.[14] A sheep may also be of a fat-tailed type, which is a dual-purpose sheep common in Africa and Asia with larger deposits of fat within and around its tail.

Breeds are also grouped based on how well they are suited to producing a certain type of breeding stock. Generally, sheep are thought to be either "ewe breeds" or "ram breeds". Ewe breeds are those that are hardy, and have good reproductive and mothering capabilities – they are for replacing breeding ewes in standing flocks. Ram breeds are selected for rapid growth and carcase quality, and are mated with ewe breeds to produce meat lambs. Lowland and upland breeds are also crossed in this fashion, with the hardy hill ewes crossed with larger, fast-growing lowland rams to produce ewes called mules, which can then be crossed with meat-type rams to produce prime market lambs.[14] Many breeds, especially rare or primitive ones, fall into no clear category.

Breeds are categorized by the type of their wool. Fine wool breeds are those that have wool of great crimp and density, which are preferred for textiles. Most of these were derived from Merino sheep, and the breed continues to dominate the world sheep industry. Downs breeds have wool between the extremes, and are typically fast-growing meat and ram breeds with dark faces.[17] Some major medium wool breeds, such as the Corriedale, are dual-purpose crosses of long and fine-wooled breeds and were created for high-production commercial flocks. Long wool breeds are the largest of sheep, with long wool and a slow rate of growth. Long wool sheep are most valued for crossbreeding to improve the attributes of other sheep types. For example: the American Columbia breed was developed by crossing Lincoln rams (a long wool breed) with fine-wooled Rambouillet ewes.

Coarse or carpet wool sheep are those with a medium to long length wool of characteristic coarseness. Breeds traditionally used for carpet wool show great variability, but the chief requirement is a wool that will not break down under heavy use (as would that of the finer breeds). As the demand for carpet-quality wool declines, some breeders of this type of sheep are attempting to use a few of these traditional breeds for alternative purposes. Others have always been primarily meat-class sheep.[18]

A minor class of sheep are the dairy breeds. Dual-purpose breeds that may primarily be meat or wool sheep are often used secondarily as milking animals, but there are a few breeds that are predominantly used for milking. These sheep do produce a higher quantity of milk and have slightly longer lactation curves.[19] In the quality of their milk, fat and protein content percentages of dairy sheep vary from non-dairy breeds but lactose content does not.[20]

A last group of sheep breeds is that of fur or hair sheep, which do not grow wool at all. Hair sheep are similar to the early domesticated sheep kept before woolly breeds were developed, and are raised for meat and pelts. Some modern breeds of hair sheep, such as the Dorper, result from crosses between wool and hair breeds. For meat and hide producers, hair sheep are cheaper to keep, as they do not need shearing.[18] Hair sheep are also more resistant to parasites and hot weather.[11]

With the modern rise of corporate agribusiness and the decline of localized family farms, many breeds of sheep are in danger of extinction. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust of the UK lists 22 native breeds as having only 3,000 registered animals (each), and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists 14 as having fewer than 10,000.[21][22][23] Preferences for breeds with uniform characteristics and fast growth have pushed heritage (or heirloom) breeds to the margins of the sheep industry.[18] Those that remain are maintained through the efforts of conservation organizations, breed registries, and individual farmers dedicated to their preservation


Sheep are exclusively herbivorous mammals. Like all ruminants, sheep have a complex digestive system composed of four chambers, allowing them to break down cellulose from stems, leaves, and seed hulls into simpler carbohydrates. When sheep graze, vegetation is chewed into a mass called a bolus, which is then passed into the first chamber: the rumen. The rumen is a 19 to 38-liter (5 to 10 gal) organ in which feed is fermented via a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria, protozoa, and yeasts of the gut flora.[24] The bolus is periodically regurgitated back to the mouth as cud for additional chewing and salivation.[24] Cud chewing is an adaptation allowing ruminants to graze more quickly in the morning, and then fully chew and digest feed later in the day.[25] This is beneficial as grazing, which requires lowering the head, leaves sheep vulnerable to predators, while cud chewing does not.[11]
A sheep's ruminant system

During fermentation, the rumen produces gas that must be expelled; disturbances of the organ, such as sudden changes in a sheep's diet, can cause potentially fatal conditions such as bloat. After fermentation in the rumen, feed passes in to the reticulum and the omasum; special feeds such as grains may bypass the rumen altogether. After the first three chambers, food moves in to the abomasum for final digestion before processing by the intestines. The abomasum is the only one of the four chambers analogous to the human stomach (being the only one that absorbs nutrients for use as energy), and is sometimes called the "true stomach".[26]

Sheep follow a diurnal pattern of activity, feeding from dawn to dusk, stopping sporadically to rest and chew their cud. Ideal pasture for sheep is not lawn-like grass, but an array of grasses, legumes and forbs.[27] Types of land where sheep are raised vary widely, from pastures that are seeded and improved intentionally to rough, native lands. Common plants toxic to sheep are present in most of the world, and include (but are not limited to) oak and acorns, tomato, yew, rhubarb, potato, and rhododendron.[28]

Sheep are largely grazing herbivores, unlike browsing animals such as goats and deer that prefer taller foliage. With a much narrower face, sheep crop plants very close to the ground and can overgraze a pasture much faster than cattle.[11] For this reason, many shepherds use managed intensive rotational grazing, where a flock is rotated through multiple pastures, giving plants time to recover.[11][14] Paradoxically, sheep can both cause and solve the spread of invasive plant species. By disturbing the natural state of pasture, sheep and other livestock can pave the way for invasive plants. However, sheep also prefer to eat invasives such as cheatgrass, leafy spurge, kudzu and spotted knapweed over native species such as sagebrush, making grazing sheep effective for conservation grazing.[29] Research conducted in Imperial County, California compared lamb grazing with herbicides for weed control in seedling alfalfa fields. Three trials demonstrated that grazing lambs were just as effective as herbicides in controlling winter weeds. Entomologists also compared grazing lambs to insecticides for insect control in winter alfalfa. In this trial, lambs provided insect control as effectively as insecticides.[30]

Other than forage, the other staple feed for sheep is hay, often during the winter months. The ability to thrive solely on pasture (even without hay) varies with breed, but all sheep can survive on this diet.[18] Also included in some sheep's diets are minerals, either in a trace mix or in licks.

Naturally, a constant source of potable water is also a fundamental requirement for sheep. The amount of water needed by sheep fluctuates with the season and the type and quality of the food they consume.[31] When sheep feed on large amounts of new growth and there is precipitation (including dew, as sheep are dawn feeders), sheep need less water. When sheep are confined or are eating large amounts of cured hay, more water is typically needed. Sheep also require clean water, and may refuse to drink water that is covered in scum or algae.[31]

Sheep are one of the few livestock animals raised for meat today that have never been widely raised in an intensive, confined animal feeding operation (CAFO).[6] Although there is a growing movement advocating alternative farming styles, a large percentage of beef cattle, pigs, and poultry are still produced under such conditions.[7] In contrast, only some sheep are regularly given high-concentration grain feed, much less kept in confinement. Especially in industrialized countries, sheep producers may fatten market lambs before slaughter (called "finishing") in feedlots.[11] Many sheep breeders flush ewes and rams with a daily ration of grain during breeding to increase fertility.[32] Ewes are also flushed during pregnancy to increase birth weights, as 70% of a lamb's growth occurs in the last five to six weeks of gestation.[6] Otherwise, only lactating ewes and especially old or infirm sheep are commonly provided with grain.[6][18] Feed provided to sheep must be specially formulated, as most cattle, poultry, pig, and even some goat feeds contain levels of copper that are lethal to sheep.[6] The same danger applies to mineral supplements such as salt licks

Behavior and intelligence

Sheep are prey animals with a strong gregarious instinct, and a majority of sheep behaviors can be understood in these terms. The dominance hierarchy of Ovis aries and its natural inclination to follow a leader to new pastures were the pivotal factors in it being one of the first domesticated livestock species.[34] All sheep have a tendency to congregate close to other members of a flock, although this behavior varies with breed.[12] Farmers exploit this behavior to keep sheep together on unfenced pastures and to move them more easily. Shepherds may also use herding dogs in this effort, whose highly bred herding ability can assist in moving flocks. Sheep are also extremely food-oriented, and association of humans with regular feeding often results in sheep soliciting people for food.[35] Those who are moving sheep may exploit this behavior by leading sheep with buckets of feed, rather than forcing their movements with herding.[36][37]

In regions where sheep have no natural predators, none of the native breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior.[11] Sheep can also become hefted to one particular local pasture (heft) so they do not roam freely in unfenced landscapes. Ewes teach the heft to their lambs, and if whole flocks are culled it must be retaught to the replacement animals.[7][38]

Flock dynamics in sheep are, as a rule, only exhibited in a group of four or more sheep. Fewer sheep may not react as normally expected when alone or with few other sheep.[6] For sheep, the primary defense mechanism is simply to flee from danger when their flight zone is crossed. Secondly, cornered sheep may charge or threaten to do so through hoof stamping and aggressive posture. This is particularly true for ewes with newborn lambs.[6]

In displaying flocking, sheep have a strong lead-follow tendency, and a leader often as not is simply the first sheep to move. However, sheep do establish a pecking order through physical displays of dominance. Dominant animals are inclined to be more aggressive with other sheep, and usually feed first at troughs.[39] Primarily among rams, horn size is a factor in the flock hierarchy.[40] Rams with different size horns may be less inclined to fight to establish pecking order, while rams with similarly sized horns are more so.[40]

Sheep can become stressed when separated from their flock members.[7] Sheep can recognize individual human and ovine faces, and remember them for years.[41][42] Relationships in flocks tend to be closest among related sheep: in mixed-breed flocks same-breed subgroups tend to form, and a ewe and her direct descendants often move as a unit within large flocks.[6]

Sheep are frequently thought of as extremely unintelligent animals.[43] A sheep's herd mentality and quickness to flee and panic in the face of stress often make shepherding a difficult endeavor for the uninitiated. Despite these perceptions, a University of Illinois monograph on sheep found them to be just below pigs and on par with cattle in IQ,[6] and some sheep have shown problem-solving abilities; a flock in West Yorkshire, England allegedly found a way to get over cattle grids by rolling on their backs, although documentation of this has relied on anecdotal accounts.[44] In addition to long-term facial recognition of individuals, sheep can also differentiate emotional states through facial characteristics.[41][42] If worked with patiently, sheep may learn their names, and many sheep are trained to be led by halter for showing and other purposes.[6] Sheep have also responded well to clicker training.[6] Very rarely, sheep are used as pack animals. Tibetan nomads distribute baggage equally throughout a flock as it is herded between living sites.[6]


Sheep follow a similar reproductive strategy to other herd animals. A group of ewes is generally mated by a single ram, who has either been chosen by a breeder or has established dominance through physical contest with other rams (in feral populations).[18] Most sheep are seasonal breeders, although some are able to breed year-round.[18] Ewes generally reach sexual maturity at six to eight months of age, and rams generally at four to six months.[18] Ewes have estrus cycles about every 17 days,[45] during which they emit a scent and indicate readiness through physical displays towards rams. A minority of sheep display a preference for homosexuality (8% on average)[46] or are freemartins (female animals that are behaviorally masculine and lack functioning ovaries).[47]

In feral sheep, rams may fight during the rut to determine which individuals may mate with ewes. Rams, especially unfamiliar ones, will also fight outside the breeding period to establish dominance; rams can kill one another if allowed to mix freely.[18] During the rut, even normally friendly rams may become aggressive towards humans due to increases in their hormone levels.[7]

After mating, sheep have a gestation period of about five months,[48] and normal labor take one to three hours.[49] Although some breeds regularly throw larger litters of lambs, most produce single or twin lambs.[7][50] During or soon after labor, ewes and lambs may be confined to small lambing jugs,[51] small pens designed to aid both careful observation of ewes and to cement the bond between them and their lambs.[14][18]

A lamb's first steps

Ovine obstetrics can be problematic. By selectively breeding ewes that produce multiple offspring with higher birth weights for generations, sheep producers have inadvertently caused some domestic sheep to have difficulty lambing; balancing ease of lambing with high productivity is one of the dilemmas of sheep breeding.[52] In the case of any such problems, those present at lambing may assist the ewe by extracting or repositioning lambs.[18] After the birth, ewes ideally break the amniotic sac (if it is not broken during labor), and begin licking clean the lamb.[18] Most lambs will begin standing within an hour of birth.[18] In normal situations, lambs nurse after standing, receiving vital colostrum milk. Lambs that either fail to nurse or that are rejected by the ewe require aid to live, such as bottle-feeding or fostering by another ewe.[53]

After lambs are several weeks old, lamb marking (the process of ear tagging, docking, and castrating) is carried out.[18] Vaccinations are usually carried out at this point as well. Ear tags with numbers are attached, or ear marks are applied for ease of later identification of sheep. Castration is performed on ram lambs not intended for breeding, although some shepherds choose to avoid the procedure for ethical, economic or practical reasons.[18] Ram lambs that will either be slaughtered or separated from ewes before sexual maturity are not usually castrated.[14] Docking, which is the shortening of a lamb's tail, is practised for health reasons.[54] Objections to all these procedures have been raised by animal rights groups, but farmers defend them by saying they solve many practical and veterinary problems, and inflict only temporary pain.[7][18]


Sheep may fall victim to poisons, infectious diseases, and physical injuries. As a prey species, a sheep's system is adapted to hide the obvious signs of illness, to prevent being targeted by predators.[7] However, there are some obvious signs of ill health, with sick sheep eating little, vocalizing excessively, and being generally listless.[55] Throughout history, much of the money and labor of sheep husbandry has aimed to prevent sheep ailments. Historically, shepherds often created remedies by experimentation on the farm. In some developed countries, including the United States, sheep lack the economic importance for drugs companies to perform expensive clinical trials required to approve drugs for ovine use.[56] In such instances, shepherds resort to illegal, extra-label usage of drugs approved for other animals.[7] In the 20th and 21st centuries, a minority of sheep owners have turned to alternative treatments such as homeopathy, herbalism and even traditional Chinese medicine to treat sheep veterinary problems.[6][7] Despite some favorable anecdotal evidence, the effectiveness of alternative veterinary medicine has been met with skepticism in scientific journals.[6][7][57] The need for traditional anti-parasite drugs and antibiotics is widespread, and is the main impediment to certified organic farming with sheep.[18]

Many breeders take a variety of preventive measures to ward off problems. The first is to ensure that all sheep are healthy when purchased. Many buyers avoid outlets known to be clearing houses for animals culled from healthy flocks as either sick or simply inferior.[7] This can also mean maintaining a closed flock, and quarantining new sheep for a month. Two fundamental preventative programs are maintaining good nutrition and reducing stress in the sheep. Handling sheep in loud, erratic ways causes them to produce cortisol, a stress hormone. This can lead to a weakened immune system, thus making sheep far more vulnerable to disease.[6] Signs of stress in sheep include: excessive panting, teeth grinding, restless movement, wool eating, and wood chewing.[6] Avoiding poisoning is also important; common poisons are pesticide sprays, inorganic fertilizer, motor oil, as well as radiator coolant (the ethylene glycol antifreeze is sweet-tasting).[58]

Common forms of preventive medication for sheep are vaccinations and treatments for parasites. Both external and internal parasites are the most prevalent malady in sheep, and are either fatal, or reduce the productivity of flocks.[7] Worms are the most common internal parasites. They are ingested during grazing, incubate within the sheep, and are expelled through the digestive system (beginning the cycle again). Oral anti-parasitic medicines, known as drenches, are given to a flock to treat worms, sometimes after worm eggs in the feces has been counted to assess infestation levels. Afterwards, sheep may be moved to a new pasture to avoid ingesting the same parasites.[14] External sheep parasites include: lice (for different parts of the body), sheep keds, nose bots, sheep itch mites, and maggots. Keds are blood-sucking parasites that cause general malnutrition and decreased productivity, but are not fatal. Maggots are those of the bot fly and the blow-fly. Fly maggots cause the extremely destructive condition of flystrike. Flies lay their eggs in wounds or wet, manure-soiled wool; when the maggots hatch they burrow into a sheep's flesh, eventually causing death if untreated. In addition to other treatments, crutching (shearing wool from a sheep's rump) is a common preventative method. Nose bots are flies that inhabit a sheep's sinuses, causing breathing difficulties and discomfort. Common signs are a discharge from the nasal passage, sneezing, and frantic movement such as head shaking. External parasites may be controlled through the use of backliners, sprays or immersive sheep dips.[7]

A wide array of bacterial diseases affect sheep. Diseases of the hoof, such as foot rot and foot scald may occur, and are treated with footbaths and other remedies. These painful conditions cause lameness and hinder feeding. Ovine Johne's disease is a wasting disease that affects young sheep. Bluetongue disease is an insect-borne illness causing fever and inflammation of the mucous membranes. Ovine rinderpest (or peste des petits ruminants) is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease affecting sheep and goats.

A few sheep conditions are transmissible to humans. Orf (also known as scabby mouth, contagious ecthyma or soremouth) is a skin disease leaving lesions that is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Cutaneous anthrax is also called woolsorter's disease, as the spores can be tranmitted in unwashed wool. More seriously, the organisms that can cause spontaneous enzootic abortion in sheep are easily transmitted to pregnant women. Also of concern are the prion disease scrapie and the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), as both can devastate flocks. The latter poses a slight risk to humans. During the 2001 FMD pandemic in the UK, hundreds of sheep were culled and some rare British breeds were at risk of extinction due to this.[7]


Other than parasites and disease, predation is a threat to sheep and the profitability of sheep raising. Sheep have little ability to defend themselves, compared with other species kept as livestock. Even if sheep survive an attack, they may die from their injuries, or simply from panic.[7] However, the impact of predation varies dramatically with region. In Africa, Australia, the Americas, and parts of Europe and Asia predators are a serious problem. In the United States, for instance, over 1/3 of sheep deaths in 2004 were caused by predation.[59] In contrast, other nations are virtually devoid of sheep predators, particularly islands known for extensive sheep husbandry.[7] Worldwide, canids—including the domestic dog—are responsible for most sheep deaths.[60][61][62] Other animals that occasionally prey on sheep include: felines, bears, birds of prey, ravens and feral hogs.[59][63]

Sheep producers have used a wide variety of measures to combat predation. Pre-modern shepherds used their own presence, livestock guardian dogs, and protective structures such as barns and fencing. Fencing (both regular and electric), penning sheep at night and lambing indoors all continue to be widely used.[18] More modern shepherds used guns, traps, and poisons to kill predators,[64] causing significant decreases in predator populations. In the wake of the environmental and conservation movements, the use of these methods now usually falls under the purview of specially designated government agencies in most developed countries .[65]

The 1970s saw a resurgence in the use of livestock guardian dogs and the development of new methods of predator control by sheep producers, many of them non-lethal.[14] Donkeys and guard llamas have been used since the 1980s in sheep operations, using the same basic principle as livestock guardian dogs.[7] Interspecific pasturing, usually with larger livestock such as cattle or horses, may help to deter predators, even if such species do not actively guard sheep.[18] In addition to animal guardians, contemporary sheep operations may use non-lethal predator deterrents such as motion-activated lights and noisy alarms.[7]


Sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated by humankind; sources provide a domestication date between nine and eleven thousand years ago in Mesopotamia.[3][6][7][66] Their wild relatives have several characteristics—such as a relative lack of aggression, a manageable size, early sexual maturity, a social nature, and high reproduction rates—which made them particularly suitable for domestication.[34] Today, Ovis aries is an entirely domesticated animal that is largely dependent on man for its health and survival.[67] Feral sheep do exist, but exclusively in areas devoid of large predators (usually islands) and not on the scale of feral horses, goats, pigs, or dogs, although some feral populations have remained isolated long enough to be recognized as distinct breeds.[34][68]

The exact line of descent between domestic sheep to their wild ancestors is presently unclear.[69] The most common hypothesis states that Ovis aries is descended from the Asiatic (O. orientalis) species of mouflon. It has been proposed that the European mouflon (O. musimon) is an ancient breed of domestic sheep turned feral rather than an ancestor, despite it commonly being cited as ancestor in past literature.[3] A few breeds of sheep, such as the Castlemilk Moorit from Scotland, were formed through crossbreeding with wild European mouflon.

The urial (O. vignei) was once thought to have been a forebear of domestic sheep, as they occasionally interbreed with mouflon in the Iranian part of their range.[3] However, the urial, argali (O. ammon), and snow sheep (O. nivicola) have a different number of chromosomes than other Ovis species, making a direct relationship implausible, and phylogenetic studies show no evidence of urial ancestry.[69] Further studies comparing European and Asian breeds of sheep showed significant genetic differences between the two. Two explanations for this phenomenon have been posited. The first is that there is a currently unknown species or subspecies of wild sheep that contributed to the formation of domestic sheep.[70] A second hypothesis suggests that this variation is the result of multiple waves of capture from wild mouflon, similar to the known development of other livestock.[71]

Initially, sheep were kept solely for meat, milk and skins. Archaeological evidence from statuary found at sites in Iran suggests that selection for woolly sheep may have begun around 6000 BC,[3][6] but the earliest woven wool garments have only been dated to two to three thousand years later.[72] By that span of the Bronze Age, sheep with all the major features of modern breeds were widespread throughout Western Asia.[3] However, one chief difference between ancient sheep and modern breeds is the technique by which wool could be collected. Primitive sheep cannot be shorn, and must have their wool plucked out by hand in a process called "rooing". This is because fibers called kemps are still longer than the soft fleece. The fleece may also be collected from the field after it falls out. This trait survives today in unrefined breeds such as the Soay and many Shetlands. Indeed, the Soay, along with other Northern European breeds with short tails, unshearable fleece, diminutive size, and horns in both sexes, are closely related to ancient sheep. Originally, weaving and spinning wool was a handicraft practiced at home, rather than an industry. Babylonians, Sumerians, and Persians all depended on sheep; and although linen was the first fabric to be fashioned in to clothing, wool was a prized product. The raising of flocks for their fleece was one of the earliest industries, and flocks were a medium of exchange in barter economies. Numerous biblical figures kept large flocks, and subjects of the king of Israel were taxed according to the number of rams they owned.[3]
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Numero di messaggi : 1826
Data d'iscrizione : 22.03.10
Età : 39
Località : Prov. CN

MessaggioOggetto: Re: Pecora - Montone - Ariete   Gio 2 Set 2010 - 14:34

In Africa

Sheep entered the African continent not long after their domestication in western Asia.[73] A minority of historians once posited a contentious African theory of origin for Ovis aries.[73] This theory is based primarily on rock art interpretations, and osteological evidence from Barbary sheep.[73] The first sheep entered North Africa via Sinai, and were present in ancient Egyptian society between eight and seven thousand years ago.[73] Sheep have always been part of subsistence farming in Africa, but today the only country that keeps an influential number of commercial sheep is South Africa. South African sheep producers, in an attempt to deal with the numerous predators of Africa, invented the livestock protection collar, which holds poison at the jugular to sicken or kill predators.[3]

In Europe

Excavations show that In about 6000 B.C., during the Neolithic period of prehistory, the Castelnovien people, living around Chateauneuf-les-Martigues near present-day Marseille in the south of France, were among the first in Europe to domesticate wild sheep.[74].

Sheep husbandry spread quickly in Europe. Practically from its inception, ancient Greek civilization relied on sheep as primary livestock, and were even said to name individual animals.[6] Scandinavian sheep of a type seen today — with short tails and multi-colored fleece — were also present early on. Later, the Roman Empire kept sheep on a wide scale, and the Romans were an important agent in the spread of sheep raising throughout the continent. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (Naturalis Historia), speaks at length about sheep and wool.[75] Declaring "Many thanks, too, do we owe to the sheep, both for appeasing the gods, and for giving us the use of its fleece.", he goes on to detail the breeds of ancient sheep and the many colors, lengths and qualities of wool.[75] Romans also pioneered the practice of blanketing sheep, in which a fitted coat (today usually of nylon) is placed over the sheep to improve the cleanliness and luster of its wool.[3]

During the Roman occupation of the British Isles, a large wool processing factory was established in Winchester, England in about 50 AD.[6] By 1000 AD, England and Spain were recognized as the twin centers of sheep production in the Western world.[3][6] As the original breeders of the fine-wooled merino sheep that have historically dominated the wool trade, the Spanish gained great wealth. Wool money largely financed Spanish rulers and thus the voyages to the New World by conquistadors.[6] The powerful Mesta (its full title was Honrado Concejo de la Mesta, the Honorable Council of the Mesta) was a corporation of sheep owners mostly drawn from Spain's wealthy merchants, Catholic clergy and nobility that controlled the merino flocks.[76] By the 17th century, the Mesta held in upwards of two million head of merino sheep.[76]

Mesta flocks followed a seasonal pattern of transhumance across Spain. In the spring, they left the winter pastures (invernaderos) in Extremadura and Andalusia to graze on their summer pastures (agostaderos) in Castile, returning again in the autumn.[76] Spanish rulers eager to increase wool profits gave extensive legal rights to the Mesta, often to the detriment of local peasantry.[76] The huge merino flocks had a lawful right of way for their migratory routes (cañadas). Towns and villages were obliged by law to let the flocks graze on their common land, and the Mesta had its own sheriffs that could summon offending individuals to its own tribunals.[76]

Exportation of merinos without royal permission was also a punishable offense, thus ensuring a near-absolute monopoly on the breed until the mid-18th century. After the breaking of the export ban, fine wool sheep began to be distributed worldwide. The export to Rambouillet by Louis XVI in 1786 formed the basis for the modern Rambouillet (or French Merino) breed.[77] After the Napoleonic Wars and the global distribution of the once-exclusive Spanish stocks of Merinos, sheep raising in Spain reverted to hardy coarse-wooled breeds such as the Churra, and was no longer of international economic significance.

The sheep industry in Spain was an instance of migratory flock management, with large homogenous flocks ranging over the entire nation. The management model used in England was quite different but had a similar importance to economy of the British Empire. Up until the early 20th century, owling (the smuggling of sheep or wool out of the country) was a punishable offense, and to this day the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords sits on a cushion known as the Woolsack.

The high concentration and more sedentary nature of shepherding in the UK allowed sheep especially adapted to their particular purpose and region to be raised, thereby giving rise to an exceptional variety of breeds in relation to the land mass of the country.[3] This greater variety of breeds also produced a valuable variety of products to compete with the superfine wool of Spanish sheep. By the time of Elizabeth I's rule, sheep and wool trade was the primary source of tax revenue to the Crown of England and the country was a major influence in the development and spread of sheep husbandry.[3][78]

An important event not only in the history of domestic sheep, but of all livestock, was the work of Robert Bakewell in the 1700s. Before his time, breeding for desirable traits was often based on chance, with no scientific process for selection of breeding stock. Bakewell established the principles of selective breeding—especially line breeding—in his work with sheep, horses and cattle; his work later influenced Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin.[6][79] His most important contribution to sheep was the development of the Leicester Longwool, a quick-maturing breed of blocky conformation that formed the basis for many vital modern breeds.[7] Today, the sheep industry in the UK has diminished significantly,[80] though pedigreed rams can still fetch around 100,000 Pounds sterling at auction.[81][82]

In the Americas

No ovine species native to the Americas has ever been domesticated, despite being closer genetically to domestic sheep than many Asian and European species. The first domestic sheep in North America—most likely of the Churra breed—arrived with Christopher Columbus' second voyage in 1493.[3][6] The next transatlantic shipment to arrive was with Hernán Cortés in 1519, landing in Mexico.[3] No export of wool or animals is known to have occurred from these populations, but flocks did disseminate throughout what is now Mexico and the Southwest United States with Spanish colonists.[6] Churras were also introduced to the Navajo tribe of Native Americans, and became a key part of their livelihood and culture. The modern presence of the Navajo-Churro breed is a result of this heritage.[18]
North America

The next transport of sheep to North America was not until 1607, with the voyage of the HMS Susan Conant to Virginia.[3] However, the sheep that arrived in that year were all slaughtered because of a famine, and a permanent flock was not to reach the colony until two years later in 1609.[3] In two decades time, the colonists had expanded their flock to a total of 400 head. By the 1640s there were about 100,000 head of sheep in the 13 colonies, and in 1662, a woolen mill was built in Watertown, Massachusetts.[3][6] Especially during the periods of political unrest and civil war in Britain spanning the 1640s and 50s which disrupted maritime trade, the colonists found it pressing to produce wool for clothing.[83] Many islands off the coast were cleared of predators and set aside for sheep: Nantucket, Long Island, Martha's Vineyard and small islands in Boston Harbor were notable examples.[83] There remain some rare breeds of American sheep—such as the Hog Island sheep—that were the result of island flocks. Placing semi-feral sheep and goats on islands was common practice in colonization during this period.[83] Early on, the British government banned further export of sheep to the Americas, or wool from it, in an attempt to stifle any threat to the wool trade in the British Isles. One of many restrictive trade measures that precipitated the American Revolution, the sheep industry in the Northeast grew despite the bans.[3]

Gradually, beginning in the 1800s, sheep production in the U.S. moved westward. Today, the vast majority of flocks reside on Western range lands. During this westward migration of the industry, competition between sheep (sometime called "range maggots") and cattle operations grew more heated, eventually erupting into range wars.[84] Other than simple competition for grazing and water rights, cattlemen believed that the secretions of the foot glands of sheep made cattle unwilling to graze on places where sheep had stepped.[11][15] As sheep production centered on the U.S. western ranges, it became associated with other parts of Western culture, such as the rodeo. In modern America, a minor event in rodeos is mutton busting, in which children compete to see who can stay atop a sheep the longest before falling off. Another effect of the westward movement of sheep flocks in North America was the decline of wild species such as Bighorn sheep (O. canadesis). Most diseases of domestic sheep are transmittable to wild ovines, and such diseases, along with overgrazing and habitat loss, are named as primary factors in the plummeting numbers of wild sheep.[85] Sheep production peaked in North America during 1940s and 50s at more than 55 million head.[6] Henceforth and continuing today, the number of sheep in North America has steadily declined with wool prices and the lessening American demand for sheep meat.[7]

South America

In South America, especially in Patagonia, there is an active modern sheep industry.[86] Sheep keeping was largely introduced through immigration to the continent by Spanish and British peoples, for whom sheep were a major industry during the period.[87] South America has a large number of sheep, but the highest-producing nation (Brazil) kept only just over 15 million head in 2004, far fewer than most centers of sheep husbandry.[88] The primary challenges to the sheep industry in South America are the phenomenal drop in wool prices in the late 20th century and the loss of habitat through logging and overgrazing.[89] The most influential region internationally is that of Patagonia, which has been the first to rebound from the fall in wool prices.[86][87] With few predators and almost no grazing competition (the only large native grazing mammal is the guanaco), the region is prime land for sheep raising.[87] The most exceptional area of production is surrounding the La Plata river in the Pampas region.[3] Sheep production in Patagonia peaked in 1952 at more than 21 million head, but has steadily fallen to fewer than ten today.[87] Most operations focus on wool production for export from Merino and Corriedale sheep; the economic sustainability of wool flocks has fallen with the drop in prices, while the cattle industry continues to grow.[87]

In Australia and New Zealand
Main articles: Agriculture in Australia and Agriculture in New Zealand
Further information: 1891 Australian shearers' strike

Australia and New Zealand are crucial players in the contemporary sheep industry, and sheep are an iconic part of both countries' culture and economy. New Zealand has the highest density of sheep per capita (sheep outnumber the human population 12 to 1), and Australia is the world's indisputably largest exporter of sheep and cattle.[90] In 2007, New Zealand even declared 15 February their official National Lamb Day to celebrate the country's history of sheep production.[91]

The First Fleet brought the initial population of 70 sheep from the Cape of Good Hope to Australia in 1788.[92] The next shipment was of 30 sheep from Calcutta and Ireland in 1793.[92] All of the early sheep brought to Australia were exclusively used for the dietary needs of the penal colonies. The beginnings of the Australian wool industry were due to the efforts of Captain John Macarthur.[92] At Macarthur's urging 16 Spanish merinos were imported in 1797, effectively beginning the Australian sheep industry.[92] By 1801 Macarthur had 1,000 head of sheep, and in 1803 he exported 111 kilograms (245 lb) of wool to England.[92] Today, Macarthur is generally thought of as the father of the Australian sheep industry.[92]

The growth of the sheep industry in Australia was explosive. In 1820, the continent held 100,000 sheep, a decade later it had one million.[93] By 1840, New South Wales alone kept 4 million sheep; flock numbers grew to 13 million in a decade.[93] While much of the growth in both nations was due to the active support of Britain in its desire for wool, both worked independently to develop new high-production breeds: the Corriedale, Coolalee, Coopworth, Perendale, Polwarth, Booroola Merino, Peppin Merino, and Poll Merino were all created in New Zealand or Australia.[7] Wool production was a fitting industry for colonies far from their home nations. Before the advent of fast air and maritime shipping, wool was one of the few viable products that was not subject to spoiling on the long passage back to British ports.[93] The abundant new land and milder winter weather of the region also aided the growth of the Australian and New Zealand sheep industries.[93]

Flocks in Australia have always been largely range bands on fenced land, and are aimed at production of medium to superfine wool for clothing and other products as well as meat. New Zealand flocks are kept in a fashion similar to English ones, in fenced holdings without shepherds. Although wool was once the primary income source for New Zealand sheep owners (especially during the New Zealand wool boom), today it has shifted to meat production for export.[3][94]
Animal welfare concerns

The Australian sheep industry is the only sector of the industry to receive international criticism for its practices. Sheep stations in Australia are cited in Animal Liberation, the seminal book of the animal rights movement, as the author's primary evidence in his argument against retaining sheep as a part of animal agriculture.[95] The practice of mulesing, in which skin is cut away from an animal's perineal area to prevent cases of the fatal condition flystrike, has been condemned by PETA as being painful and unnecessary.[96] In response, a program of phasing out mulesing is currently being implemented,[97] and some mulesing operations are being carried out with the use of anaesthetic.[98] The Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture Code of recommendations and minimum standards for the welfare of Sheep, considers mulesing a "special technique" which is performed on some Merino sheep at a small number of farms in New Zealand.[99]

Most of the sheep meat exported from Australia is either frozen carcases to the UK or is live export to the Middle East. Shipped on livestock carriers in what has been called crowded, unsafe conditions by critics, live sheep are desired by Middle Eastern nations to meet the requirements of ritual halal slaughter.[100] Opponents of the export—such as PETA—say that sheep exported to countries outside the jurisdiction of Australia's animal cruelty laws are treated with horrendous brutality and that halal facilities exist in Australia to make export of live animals redundant.[100] A few celebrities and companies have pledged to boycott all Australian sheep products in protest.[101]
Economic importance
Main article: Agricultural economics
Global sheep stocks
in 2008
China 136.4
Australia 79.0
India 65.0
Iran 53.8
Sudan 51.1
New Zealand 34.1
Nigeria 33.9
United Kingdom 33.1
World Total 1,078.2
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation

Sheep are an important part of the global agricultural economy. However, their once-vital status has been largely replaced by other livestock species, especially the pig, chicken, and cow.[14] China, Australia, India, and Iran have the largest modern flocks, and serve both local and exportation needs for wool and mutton.[102] Other countries such as New Zealand have smaller flocks but retain a large international economic impact due to their export of sheep products. Sheep also play a major role in many local economies, which may be niche markets focused on organic or sustainable agriculture and local food customers.[6][103] Especially in developing countries, such flocks may be a part of subsistence agriculture rather than a system of trade. Sheep themselves may be a medium of trade in barter economies.[6]

Domestic sheep provide a wide array of raw materials. Wool was one of the first textiles, although in the late 20th century wool prices began to fall dramatically as the result of the popularity and cheap prices for synthetic fabrics.[6] For many sheep owners, the cost of shearing is greater than the possible profit from the fleece, making subsisting on wool production alone practically impossible without farm subsidies.[6] Fleeces are used as material in making alternative products such as wool insulation.[104] In the 21st century, the sale of meat is the most profitable enterprise in the sheep industry, even though far less sheep meat is consumed than chicken, pork or beef.[14]

Sheepskin is likewise used for making clothes, footwear, rugs, and other products. Byproducts from the slaughter of sheep are also of value: sheep tallow can be used in candle and soap making, sheep bone and cartilage has been used to furnish carved items such as dice and buttons as well as rendered glue and gelatin.[105] Sheep intestine can be formed into sausage casings, and lamb intestine has been formed into surgical sutures, as well as strings for musical instruments and tennis rackets.[3] Sheep droppings, which are high in cellulose, have even been sterilized and mixed with traditional pulp materials to make paper.[106] Of all sheep byproducts, perhaps the most valuable is lanolin: the water-proof, fatty substance found naturally in sheep's wool and used as a base for innumerable cosmetics and other products.[3]

Some farmers who keep sheep also make a profit from live sheep. Providing lambs for youth programs such as 4-H and competition at agricultural shows is often a dependable avenue for the sale of sheep.[107] Farmers may also choose to focus on a particular breed of sheep in order to sell registered purebred animals, as well as provide a ram rental service for breeding.[108] The most valuable sheep ever sold to date was a purebred Texel ram that fetched £231,000 at auction.[109] The previous record holder was a Merino ram sold for £205,000 in 1989.[109] A new option for deriving profit from live sheep is the rental of flocks for grazing; these "mowing services" are hired in order to keep unwanted vegetation down in public spaces and to lessen fire hazard.[110]

Despite the falling demand and price for sheep products in many markets, sheep have distinct economic advantages when compared with other livestock. They do not require the expensive housing,[111] such as that used in the intensive farming of chickens or pigs. They are an efficient use of land; roughly six sheep can be kept on the amount that would suffice for a single cow or horse.[7][112] Sheep can also consume plants, such as noxious weeds, that most other animals will not touch, and produce more young at a faster rate.[113] Also, in contrast to most livestock species, the cost of raising sheep is not necessarily tied to the price of feed crops such as grain, soybeans and corn.[114] Combined with the lower cost of quality sheep, all these factors combine to equal a lower overhead for sheep producers, thus entailing a higher profitability potential for the small farmer.[114] Sheep are especially beneficial for independent producers, including family farms with limited resources, as the sheep industry is one of the few types of animal agriculture that has not been vertically integrated by agribusiness.[115]

Cultural impact

Sheep have had a strong presence in many cultures, especially in areas where they form the most common type of livestock. In the English language, to call someone a sheep or ovine may allude that they are timid and easily led, if not outright stupid.[136] In contradiction to this image, male sheep are often used as symbols of virility and power, such as for the St. Louis Rams and the Dodge Ram. Sheep are key symbols in fables and nursery rhymes like The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Little Bo Peep, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, and Mary Had a Little Lamb. Novels such as George Orwell's Animal Farm, Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase, Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd and Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story utilize sheep as characters or plot devices. Poems like William Blake's "The Lamb", songs such as Pink Floyd's Sheep and Bach's aria Sheep may safely graze (Schafe können sicher weiden) use sheep for metaphorical purposes. In more recent popular culture, the 2007 film Black Sheep exploits sheep for horror and comedic effect, ironically turning them into blood-thirsty killers.

Counting sheep is popularly said to be an aid to sleep, and some ancient systems of counting sheep persist today. Sheep also enter in colloquial sayings and idiom frequently with such phrases as "black sheep". To call an individual a black sheep implies that they are an odd or disreputable member of a group.[137] This usage derives from the recessive trait that causes an occasional black lamb to be born in to an entirely white flock. These black sheep were considered undesirable by shepherds, as black wool is not as commercially viable as white wool.[137] Citizens who accept overbearing governments have been referred to by the Portmanteau neologism of sheeple. Somewhat differently, the adjective "sheepish" is also used to describe embarrassment.[138]

In religion and folklore

In antiquity, symbolism involving sheep cropped up in religions in the ancient Near East, the Mideast, and the Mediterranean area: Çatalhöyük, ancient Egyptian religion, the Cana'anite and Phoenician tradition, Judaism, Greek religion, and others. Religious symbolism and ritual involving sheep began with some of the first known faiths: skulls of rams (along with bulls) occupied central placement in shrines at the Çatalhöyük settlement in 8,000 BCE.[139] In Ancient Egyptian religion, the ram was the symbol of several gods: Khnum, Heryshaf and Amun (in his incarnation as a god of fertility).[6] Other deities occasionally shown with ram features include: the goddess Ishtar, the Phoenician god Baal-Hamon, and the Babylonian god Ea-Oannes.[6] In Madagascar, sheep were not eaten as they were believed to be incarnations of the souls of ancestors.[140]

There are also many ancient Greek references to sheep: that of Chrysomallos, the golden-fleeced ram, continuing to be told through into the modern era. Astrologically, Aries, the ram, is the first sign of the classical Greek zodiac and the sheep is also the eighth of the twelve animals associated with the 12-year cycle of in the Chinese zodiac, related to the Chinese calendar.[140] In Mongolia, shagai are an ancient form of dice made from the cuboid bones of sheep that are often used for fortunetelling purposes.

Sheep play an important role in all the Abrahamic faiths; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David and the Islamic prophet Muhammad were all shepherds. According to the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac, a ram is sacrificed as a substitute for Isaac after an angel stays Abraham's hand (in the Islamic tradition, Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael). Eid al-Adha is a major annual festival in Islam in which sheep (or other animals) are sacrificed in remembrance of this act.[141][142] Sheep are also occasionally sacrificed to commemorate important secular events in Islamic cultures.[143] Greeks and Romans also sacrificed sheep regularly in religious practice, and Judaism also once sacrificed sheep as a Korban (sacrifice), such as the Passover lamb .[140] Ovine symbols—such as the ceremonial blowing of a shofar—still find a presence in modern Judaic traditions. Followers of Christianity are collectively often referred to as a flock, with Christ as the Good Shepherd, and sheep are an element in the Christian iconography of the birth of Jesus. Some Christian saints are considered patrons of shepherds, and even of sheep themselves. Christ is also portrayed as the Sacrificial lamb of God (Agnus Dei) and Easter celebrations in Greece and Romania traditionally feature a meal of Paschal lamb.


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71. ^ Meadows, J.R.; I. Cemal, O. Karaca, et al. (March 2007). "Five ovine mitochondrial lineages identified from sheep breeds of the near East.". Genetics 175 (3): p. 1371. doi:10.1534/genetics.106.068353. PMID 17194773. PMC 1840082. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
72. ^ Smith et al., p. 8.
73. ^ a b c d Blench, Roger; Kevin C MacDonald (1999). The Origins and Development of African Livestock. Routledge. ISBN 1841420182.
74. ^ Max Escalon de Fonton, L'Homme avant l'histoire, pg). 16-17, in Histoire de la Provence, Editions Privat, Toulouse, 1990. See also F. Bourdier, Préhistoire de France (Paris, 1967) and G. Bailloud, Les civilisations Néolithiques de la France (Paris, 1955).
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87. ^ a b c d e "Grasslands of the world". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
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90. ^ "The people of New Zealand". TeAra: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 2006-06-09. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
91. ^ Associated Press (2007-01-26). "New Zealand Declares National Lamb Day". CBS News. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
92. ^ a b c d e f D'arcy, J.B. (1990). Sheep Management and Wool Technology. University of New South Wales Press. pp. 147–48. ISBN 086840036X.
93. ^ a b c d Macintyre, Stuart (2004). A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 30, 37, 57. ISBN 0521601010.
94. ^ "Agricultural production". TeAra: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
95. ^ Singer, Peter (1991). Animal Liberation. Avon Books. ISBN 0380713330.
96. ^ "Wool Boycott Targets Australia Sheep Farmers". National Geographic News. 2005-08-16. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
97. ^ Peter Wilkinson (2004-11-08). "In the News". Australian Wool Growers Association. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
98. ^ Cuming, Marius (2007-03-16). "Pain relief from man to lamb". Stock and Land. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
99. ^ Code of recommendations and minimum standards for the welfare of Sheep. Retrieved 1 October 2008.
100. ^ a b "". PETA. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
101. ^ "Pink angers Australian government". BBC News. 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
102. ^ Cuming, Marius (2008-01-24). "Live sheep ship-shape". North Queensland Register. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
103. ^ Severson, Kim (2005-09-14). "Iceland Woos America With Lamb and Skyr". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
104. ^ Wooster, p.ix.
105. ^ Simmons & Ekarus p. 325–329
106. ^ "Sheep Poo paper". Creative Paper Wales. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
107. ^ Simmons & Ekarius p. 322
108. ^ Simmons & Ekarius p. 333
109. ^ a b "Why counting sheep can be very expensive: Ram sold for world record £231,000". The Daily Mail. August 29, 2009.
110. ^ Simmons & Ekarius p. 332–334
111. ^ Smith et al., p. 31.
112. ^ Small, Joanna (2008-01-18). "Sheep Compete With Beef". KSBR News (ABC). Retrieved 2008-01-27.
113. ^ Simmons & Ekarius, p. 1.
114. ^ a b Wilde, Matthew (2008-01-20). "Profit opportunities raising sheep". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
115. ^ Simmons & Ekarius, p. 3.
116. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1933: Mutton, Sheep, Beef.
117. ^ "Mutton". Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
118. ^ "What Is Mutton? Understanding The History". Mutton Renaissance Campaign. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
119. ^ a b c d Apple Jr., R.W. (2006-03-29). "Much Ado About Mutton, but Not in These Parts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
120. ^ Smith et al., p. 147.
121. ^ "Sheep Trade in Syria". National Agricultural Policy Center, Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Syrian Arab Republic.
122. ^ Kurmann, Joeseph A.; Jeremija Lj. Rašić Manfred Kroger (1992). Encyclopedia of Fermented Fresh Milk Products: An International Inventory. 233 Spring Street New York, NY: Springer. ISBN 0442008694. p. 343
123. ^ "Fifth Report on the Statistics on the Number of Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes in the Member States of the European Union" (PDF). Commission of the European Communities. November 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
124. ^ Lehrman, Sally (July 2008). "No More Cloning Around". Scientific American. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
125. ^ de Gortari MJ, Freking BA, Cuthbertson RP, et al. (1998). "A second-generation linkage map of the sheep genome". Mamm. Genome 9 (3): pp. 204–09. doi:10.1007/s003359900726. PMID 9501303.
126. ^ Dalrymple BP, Kirkness EF, Nefedov M, et al. (2007). "Using comparative genomics to reorder the human genome sequence into a virtual sheep genome". Genome Biol 8 (7): R152. doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-7-r152. PMID 17663790.
127. ^ Fountain, Henry (2008-01-22). "In a Sheep Population, Researchers Find a Fitness Gene". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
128. ^ Sample, Ian (2008-01-18). "Soays' natural selection on the hoof". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
129. ^ Fleming, Nic (2008-01-18). "Darker black sheep's decline is in the genes". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
130. ^ Roselli CE, Larkin K, Resko JA, Stellflug JN, Stormshak F (2004). "The volume of a sexually dimorphic nucleus in the ovine medial preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus varies with sexual partner preference". Endocrinology 145 (2): pp. 478–83. doi:10.1210/en.2003-1098. PMID 14525915.
131. ^ Recchia FA, Lionetti V (2007). "Animal models of dilated cardiomyopathy for translational research". Vet. Res. Commun. 31 Suppl 1: pp. 35–41. doi:10.1007/s11259-007-0005-8. PMID 17682844.
132. ^ Hasenfuss G (1998). "Animal models of human cardiovascular disease, heart failure and hypertrophy". Cardiovasc. Res. 39 (1): 60. doi:10.1016/S0008-6363(98)00110-2. PMID 9764190.
133. ^ Barry JS, Anthony RV (2008). "The pregnant sheep as a model for human pregnancy". Theriogenology 69 (1): pp. 55–67. doi:10.1016/j.theriogenology.2007.09.021. PMID 17976713.
134. ^ Vuguin PM (2007). "Animal models for small for gestational age and fetal programming of adult disease". Horm. Res. 68 (3): 113. doi:10.1159/000100545. PMID 17351325.
135. ^ Peirce JW, Leigh AE, daCosta AP, Kendrick KM. (June 2001). "Human face recognition in sheep: lack of configurational coding and right hemisphere advantage.". Behavioural processes 55 (1): 13. doi:10.1016/S0376-6357(01)00158-9. PMID 11390088.
136. ^ "Sheep". Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
137. ^ a b Ammer, Christine (1997). American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Google Books. ISBN 9780395727744. Retrieved 2007-11-13.
138. ^ "Sheepish". Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
139. ^ Budiansky, p. 159.
140. ^ a b c Cooper, JC (1992). Symbolic and Mythological Animals. London: Aquarian Press. p. 219. ISBN 1-85538-118-4.
141. ^ "Eid ul Adha (10 Dhul-Hijja) - the festival of sacrifice". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
142. ^ "Eid Festival Around The World - Graphic photos". Sweetness & Light. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
143. ^ Robertson, Cambpell (August 13, 200). "Bloody Blessing Goes Unnoticed". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-10.


* Budiansky, Stephen (1999). The Covenant of the Wild: Why animals chose domestication. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300079931.
* Ensminger, Dr. M.E.; Dr. R.O. Parker (1986). Sheep and Goat Science, Fifth Edition. Danville, Illinois: The Interstate Printers and Publishers Inc. ISBN 081342464X.
* Simmons, Paula; Carol Ekarius (2001). Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing LLC. ISBN 9781580172622.
* Smith M.S., Barbara; Mark Aseltine PhD, Gerald Kennedy DVM (1997). Beginning Shepherd's Manual, Second Edition. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press. ISBN 081382799X.
* Weaver, Sue (2005). Sheep: small-scale sheep keeping for pleasure and profit. 3 Burroughs Irvine, CA 92618: Hobby Farm Press, an imprint of BowTie Press, a division of BowTie Inc.. ISBN 1-931993-49-1.
* Wooster, Chuck; Geoff Hansen (Photography) (2005). Living with Sheep: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Flock. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-59228-531-7.


Ovis aries
Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

La pecora (Ovis aries, Linnaeus 1758) è un mammifero, della famiglia dei bovidi, genere Ovis.

Si tratta di un animale addomesticato in epoca antichissima, diffuso attualmente in ogni continente. Vive principalmente in greggi, per gestire i quali l'uomo si affida spesso a cani pastore.

Il nome pecora (lat. pecorino "bestiame di piccolo taglio" passato poi ad identificare un singolo animale) è riservato all'adulto femmina, il maschio della specie si chiama ariete o montone, mentre il piccolo è denominato agnello o pecorino fino ad un anno di età.

L'età di una pecora si stabilisce dai denti, collocati solo lungo l'arcata inferiore (l'arcata superiore è costituita da una formazione ossea continua). Gli agnelli, alla nascita, hanno otto denti da latte provvisori. Ad un anno i due incisivi frontali sono sostituiti da quelli permanenti; all'età di due anni si aggiungono altri due incisivi permanenti e fra i 3-4 anni si completa la dentizione permanente per arrivare intorno al quarto anno d'età agli otto incisivi definitivi (detta pecora zoppa).

La pecora, a causa del suo bizzarro sviluppo encefalico, è di carattere molto timido ma, al contrario di quanto si possa pensare, è molto intelligente e dotata di molta memoria e facilità di apprendimento. Generalmente il vello delle pecore è marcatamente folto e fitto, estremamente riscaldante e di rapida crescita; è solitamente di colore bianco, biancastro, bianco sporco, talvolta anche nocciola. Spesso nei neonati e nei piccoli agnelli, il pelo, non ancora lanoso, può essere transitoriamente molto scuro, quasi nero.

* 1 Dimensioni
* 2 I prodotti
* 3 Links
* 4 Altri progetti

Dimensioni [modifica]

In media, una pecora adulta è lunga tra gli 85 e i 125 cm e pesa tra i 21 e i 32 kg. Appena nata, la pecora non supera i 1000 g di peso ed è lunga circa 20 cm. Le misure sono comunque approssimative, perché la sovente quantità ingente di lana rende difficoltosi questi test fisici. Le misure sono invece molto più chiare se l' animale è stato sottoposto alla tosatura. In linea di massima, la pecora raggiunge la massima lunghezza ad un terzo circa della sua età (può vivere anche 16-19 anni), poco dopo essere maturata sessualmente, e quindi ingrassata, e giunge al peso massimo a 10-12 anni di vita, quando invecchia rapidamente e sfiora i 35-42 kg.
I prodotti [modifica]

La pecora viene allevata per il latte, per la carne e per la lana.

La lana, il pelo della pecora, è utilizzata fin dall'antichità come fibra tessile, il suo vello, che viene tosato ogni anno all'inizio dell'estate, fornisce lana di qualità differente a seconda della razza dell'animale e della parte del corpo da cui proviene. Sicuramente, le più pregiate sono la merinos (presente in Spagna, che primeggia per il vello particolarmente lungo e per la sua rarità), la Disheley Leicester (a lana lunga e molto soffice) e le Lincoln e Doron (rare e a lana corta). La lana viene accuratamente filata e lavorata con metodi piuttosto complessi, per venire poi utilizzata per fabbricare indumenti caldi, cuscini e materassi.

Il latte come bevanda è molto meno diffuso di quello di bovino, ma è largamente impiegato nell'industria casearia per la produzione di formaggio pecorino e ricotta. In particolare, il latte di pecora è più ricco in grassi e i suoi prodotti presentano un aroma spiccato molto apprezzato.

Gli agnelli vengono allevati principalmente per la carne, solo una parte viene infatti allevata per essere destinata alla riproduzione. È tradizione diffusa in molte zone d'Italia mangiare carne d'agnello nel giorno di Pasqua, l'agnello è del resto l'animale sacrificale per eccellenza nelle culture che si affacciano sul bacino del Mediterraneo. La carne di pecora ha un sapore caratteristico, gradevole, soprattutto se l' agnello è molto giovane e di media costituzione.

In molte zone dell'Italia centrale l'agnello da latte, cioè con poco più di un mese di vita, da molti preferito per la carne tenera, è chiamato abbacchio. L' industria legata a questi animali occupa un ruolo primario in Sardegna, ma è rilevante anche in Abruzzo, Molise, Lazio, Sicilia, Toscana, Campania, Basilicata, Marche e Calabria. Nel mondo, l' allevamento delle pecore è molto famoso in Australia (dove l' importazione della qualità merinos ha stravolto in meglio il commercio dei prodotti degli ovini), in Nuova Zelanda (che ha importato moltissime specie americane), in Argentina (con però un commercio indirizzato quasi solo in Europa) e in Sudafrica (con il commercio della carne delle specie locali).

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Femminile Serpente
Numero di messaggi : 1826
Data d'iscrizione : 22.03.10
Età : 39
Località : Prov. CN

MessaggioOggetto: Re: Pecora - Montone - Ariete   Gio 2 Set 2010 - 14:44

Questo articolo riferisce che quanto questo animale entra nella nostra vita è presagio di un nuovo inizio, ci sono nell'aria cambiamenti e quindi vi ricorda di essere aperti e di prendere le decisioni senza esitare.



Great horned ram, filled with life force,
Teach me to a black sheep,
Going my own way, following my inner path,
Not walking in the rut made by the narrow-minded.
Help me to balance harmoniously in unstable places,
Keeping my freedom to be me.

New Beginnings

A Ram totem is a portent of changes and new beginnings. Ram people are often stoic, sensitive and have great perseverance. Curiosity and an active imagination are traits of the Ram totem.

A Ram totem gives stimulation and energy to all mental faculties.

This is an intellectual totem.

Remember that the openings for new beginnings and opportunities can be mere toe-holes, but if you act quickly, you will secure your spot.

Ram is a moving totem and therefore opportunities must be grabbed quickly with no hesitation.


Ram -- The Life Force, new beginnings and new opportunities, curiosity and imagination, moving forward on the spiritual path

Sheep -- Comfort and warmth within the group, yet a group that often needs the protection of others. It may be a warning not to become complacent about this protection as those who protect you may have designs of their own upon you. A symbol of innocence, purity, and birth. New beginnings in a guarded peace.

Anche qui ci parla del simbolismo di nuovo inizio spirituale, invita ad essere curiosi.


Sheep are the most widely distributed domestic animal in the world. They were originally domesticated in Iraq, approximately 11,000 years ago. There are currently over 800 breeds of domestic sheep of which half of them are bred for their pelts and wool to make clothing and carpets.

These nimble climbers have four compartment stomachs, and can live up to 20 years.

Sheep have been the symbol of purity and innocence for many centuries.

Sheep is a spiritual helper who shows us that working in groups can enable us to find solutions to our problems, which opens us up to peace entering our lives.


PECORA DI MONTAGNA – Potere personale. Ti aiuta con la sua regalità a reclamare il tuo potere e la tua dignità personale. Ti riconnette alla saggezza insita nella natura. Per rivendicare la tua autorità all’interno del tuo spazio sacro.

Ultima modifica di Tila il Lun 3 Gen 2011 - 10:47, modificato 1 volta
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Iniziato Sciamano
Iniziato Sciamano

Femminile Serpente
Numero di messaggi : 1826
Data d'iscrizione : 22.03.10
Età : 39
Località : Prov. CN

MessaggioOggetto: Re: Pecora - Montone - Ariete   Sab 25 Dic 2010 - 16:40

Questo totem ha avuto una grande influenza nell'inventario dell'uomo...molte sono le storie mitologiche legate ad esso e questo interessante articolo ne fa qualche esempio.


Ram Meanings and Symbolic Thoughts about the Ram

The animal symbolism of the ram speaks of: Power, Force, Drive, Energy, Virility, Protection, Fearlessness.

A look into mythology will reveal the ram was associated with many gods over time. And so, if a god amongst the people, wouldn't you agree these are all admirable qualities?

The Celtic god Cernunnos is shown with the ram. Some depictions show him seated with a ram-headed snake by his side a symbolic gesture of renewal and power.

In ancient Egypt the god Amun-Ra took on the persona of Khnum, the creator god who was always depicted with a ram's head.

In Scandinavia, Thor was close with the ram, and was fabled to use rams to pull his chariot.

Other gods connected to the strong-willed ram are:

* Zeus (Greece)
* Apollo (Greece)
* Agni (India)
* Indra (India)
* Hermes (Roman)
* Ea (Middle East)
* Baal (Middle East)

It is noteworthy that the ram is the first sign of the Zodiac, as Aries. Here it is symbolic of impetuous fervor, renewal, virility and fiery force. This sign embraces the return of the warmth of the sun as the March equinox approaches.

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Iniziato Sciamano
Iniziato Sciamano

Femminile Serpente
Numero di messaggi : 1826
Data d'iscrizione : 22.03.10
Età : 39
Località : Prov. CN

MessaggioOggetto: Re: Pecora - Montone - Ariete   Gio 15 Mar 2012 - 12:42

Riporto alcuni articoli, di wikipedia, che narrano di una leggendaria pianta che ha come frutti pecore, una sorta di ibrido tra animale e pianta che ricorda vagamente la Mandragora.

Buona lettura.


Agnello vegetale della Tartaria
Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

L'agnello vegetale della Tartaria è una pianta semi-leggendaria dell'Asia centrale, che si crede dia come frutto delle pecore. Essa è conosciuta anche col nome latino di Planta Tartarica barometz (oppure borametz, o borometz), poiché barometz è la parola tartara che indica l'agnello.

Essa costituirebbe dunque un essere vivente a metà tra il vegetale e l'animale, come la Mandragora, che grida con voce umana quando viene estirpata. Si dice infatti che intorno al borametz non possano sopravvivere altre piante e che a tagliarla ne esca una linfa simile a sangue.

Sempre secondo la leggenda (le cui origini si rinvengono nel XI secolo), i batuffoli di cotone erano in realtà minuscole pecore attaccate alla pianta per mezzo del loro cordone ombelicale. L'arbusto poteva piegarsi per permettere alla pecora di brucare l'erba; una volta che questa si fosse esaurita, la pecora sarebbe scesa dal barometz lasciando morire la pianta.

Tale mito, che nel Medioevo servì a spiegare l'esistenza del cotone, si basava sull'esistenza di una pianta reale, lanuginosa e con radici a fittone, solitamente in numero di quattro o cinque, il cui nome scientifico è Polypodium borametz.

FONTE IMMAGINE:,_1887%29.jpg


Vegetable Lamb of Tartary
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary (Latin: Agnus scythicus or Planta Tartarica Barometz[1]) is a legendary zoophyte of central Asia, believed to grow sheep as its fruit.[2] The sheep were connected to the plant by an umbilical cord and grazed the land around the plant. When all the plants were gone, both the plant and sheep died.

Although it owed its currency in medieval thought as a way of explaining the existence of cotton, underlying the myth is a real plant, Cibotium barometz, a fern of the genus Cibotium.[2] It was known under various other names including the Scythian Lamb, the Borometz, Barometz and Borametz, the latter three being different spellings of the local word for lamb.[3] The 'lamb' is produced by removing the leaves from a short length of the fern's woolly rhizome. When the rhizome is inverted, it fancifully resembles a woolly lamb with the legs being formed by the severed petiole bases.[2] The Tradescant Museum of Garden History has one under glass.


In his book, The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary (1887), Henry Lee describes the legendary lamb as believed to be both a true animal and a living plant. However, he states that some writers believed the lamb to be the fruit of a plant, sprouting forward from melon-like seeds. Others however believed the lamb to be a living member of the plant that once separated from it, would perish. The vegetable lamb was believed to have blood, bones, and flesh like that of a normal lamb. It was connected to the earth by a stem similar to an umbilical cord that propped the lamb up above ground. The cord could flex downward allowing the lamb to feed on the grass and plants surrounding it. Once the plants within reach were eaten, the lamb died. It could be eaten once dead, and its blood supposedly tasted sweet like honey. Its wool was said to be used by the native people of its homeland to make head coverings and other articles of clothing. The only carnivorous animals attracted to the lamb-plant (other than humans) were wolves.[4]

Possible origins

There is mention of a similar plant-animal in Jewish folklore as early as 436 CE. This creature, called the Yeduah, was like a lamb in form and sprouted from the earth connected to a stem. Those who went hunting the Yeduah could only harvest the creature by severing it from its stem with arrows or darts. Once the animal was severed, it died and its bones could be used in divination and prophetic ceremonies.[5]

An alternative version of the legend tells of the "Faduah", a human-shaped plant-animal connected to the earth from a stem attached to its navel. The Faduah was believed to be aggressive though, grabbing and killing any creature that wandered too close. Like the Barometz, it too died once severed from its stem.[6]

The Minorite Friar Odoricus of Friuli, upon recalling first hearing of a Barometz, told of trees on the shore of the Irish Sea with gourd-like fruits that fell into the water and became birds called Bernacles.[7] He is referring to the legendary plant-animal, the Barnacle Tree which was believed to drop its ripened fruit into the sea near the Orkney Islands. The ripened fruit would then release “barnacle geese” that would live in the water, growing to mature geese. The alleged existence of this fellow plant-animal was accepted as an explanation for migrating geese from the North.[8]

In his work The Shui-yang or Watersheep and The Agnus Scythicus or Vegetable Lamb (1892), Gustav Schlegel points to Chinese legends of the "watersheep" as inspiration for the legend of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. Much like the vegetable lamb, the watersheep was believed to be both plant and animal and tales of its existence placed it near Persia. It was connected to the ground by a stem and if the stem were severed, it would die. The animal was protected from aggressors by an enclosure built around it and by armored men yelling and beating drums. Its wool was also said to be used for fine clothing and headdresses.[9] (In turn, the origin of watersheep is an explanation for sea silk).

"Das Boramez, oder Scythische Lamm" from Friedrich Johann Justin Bertuch's picture book for children

In search of the legend

Earlier versions of the legend tell of the lamb as a fruit, springing from a melon or gourd-like seed, perfectly formed as if born naturally. As time passed, this idea was replaced with the notion that the creature was indeed both a living animal and a living plant. Gustav Schlegel, in his work on the various legends of the vegetable lamb, recounts the lamb being born without its horns, but with two puffs of white, curly hair instead.[9]

Sir John Mandeville is credited with bringing the legend to public attention in England in the 14th century during the reign of King Edward III. Mandeville returned from Tartary describing a strange gourd-like fruit grown there. Once ripe, the fruit was cut open, revealing what looked like a lamb in flesh and blood but lacking wool. The fruit and the lamb could then be eaten.[5]

Friar Odoric of Friuli, much like Mandeville, travelled extensively and claimed to have heard of gourds in Persia that when ripe, opened to contain lamb-like beasts. [7]

In the mid 16th century, Sigismund, Baron von Herberstein, who in 1517 and 1526 was the Ambassador to the Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V, presented a much more detailed account of the Barometz in his "Notes on Russia". He claimed to have heard from too many credible sources to doubt the lamb’s existence, and gave the location of the creature as being near the Caspian Sea, between the Jaick and Volga rivers. The creature grown from the melon-like seeds described was said to grow to two and half feet high (80 cm), resembling a lamb in most ways except a few. It was said to have blood, but not true flesh as it more closely resembled that of a crab. Unlike a normal lamb, its hooves were said to be made of parted hair. It was the favourite food of wolves and other animals.[10]

The German scholar and physician Engelbert Kaempfer accompanied an embassy to Persia in 1683 with the intention of locating the lamb. After speaking with native inhabitants and finding no physical evidence of the lamb-plant, Kaempfer concluded it to be nothing but legend.[11] However, he observed the custom of removing an unborn lamb from its mother’s womb in order to harvest the soft wool and believed the practice to be a possible source of the legend.[12] He speculated further that museum specimens of the fetal wool could be mistaken for a vegetable substance.[13]

In poetry

In Dr. Erasmus Darwin’s work Botanic Garden (1781), he writes of the Borametz:

E'en round the Pole the flames of love aspire,
And icy bosoms feel the secret fire,
Cradled in snow, and fanned by Arctic air,
Shines, gentle borametz, thy golden hair
Rooted in earth, each cloven foot descends,
And round and round her flexile neck she bends,
Crops the grey coral moss, and hoary thyme,
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime;
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
And seems to bleat - a vegetable lamb[14]

Guillaume de Saluste, the Sieur du Bartas, writes of the vegetable lamb in his poem La Semaine (1587). In the poem, Adam wanders the Garden of Eden and is amazed by the peculiarity of the creature. Joshua Sylvester translates:[15]

But with true beasts, fast in the ground still sticking
Feeding on grass, and th’ airy moisture licking,
Such as those Borametz in Scythia bred
Of slender seeds, and with green fodder fed;
Although their bodies, noses, mouths, and eyes,
Of new-yeaned lambs have full the form and guise,
And should be very lambs, save that for foot
Within the ground they fix a living root
Which at their navel grows, and dies that day
That they have browzed the neighboring grass away.
Oh! Wondrous nature of God only good,
The beast hath root, the plant hath flesh and blood.
The nimble plant can turn it to and fro,
The nummed beast can neither stir nor goe,
The plant is leafless, branchless, void of fruit,
The beast is lustless, sexless, fireless, mute:
The plant with plants his hungry paunch doth feede,
Th’ admired beast is sowen a slender seed.[15]

In his work Connubia Florum, Latino Carmine Demonstrata (1791), Dr. De la Croix writes of the vegetable lamb (translated):

For in his path he sees a monstrous birth,
The Borametz arises from the earth
Upon a stalk is fixed a living brute,
A rooted plant bears quadruped for fruit,
…It is an animal that sleeps by day
And wakes at night, though rooted in the ground,
To feed on grass within its reach around.[16]

Cultural references

Denis Diderot wrote an article about the Agnus Scythicus in the first edition of his Encyclopédie.[17] Some see it as a thinly-veiled criticism of the blind belief associated with religion. It also acts as an endorsement for viewing all phenomena scientifically.

The Borometz appears in Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings.

In the PlayStation 2 game Odin Sphere, Baromett seeds can be planted and grow to be plants that bear two sheep.


^ These are not scientific names, but predate binomial nomenclature.
^ a b c Large, Mark F.; John E. Braggins (2004). Tree Ferns. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 360. ISBN 978-0881926309.
^ Ashton, John. Curious Creatures in Zoology, 1890
^ Lee, Henry (1887). The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington. p. 2.
^ a b Lee, 1887 p. 5
^ Lee, 1887 p. 6
^ a b Lee, 1887 p. 11
^ Lehner, Ernst, and Johanna Lehner. Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants, and Trees. New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1960. pg. 86.
^ a b Schlegel, Gustav. The Shui-yang or Watersheep and The Agnus Scythicus or Vegetable Lamb. Acts of the 8th International Congress of Orientalists. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1892. pg 23.
^ Lee, 1887 p. 12
^ Schlegel, Gustav. The Shui-yang or Watersheep and The Agnus Scythicus or Vegetable Lamb. Acts of the 8th International Congress of Orientalists. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1892. pg 31.
^ Tryon, Alice. "The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary". American Fern Journal 47.1 (1957): 1-7. JSTOR. Web. 2 Feb. 2010. pg. 5
^ Carrubba, Robert. "Engelbert Kaempfer and the Myth of the Scythian Lamb". The Classical World 87.1 (1993): 41-47. JSTOR. Web. 2 Feb. 2010. pg. 45
^ Darwin, Erasmus (1825) [1781]. The Botanic Garden. London: Jones & Company.
^ a b Lee, 1887 p. 18
^ Ho, Judith. "Legend of the Lamb Plant." probe 2.3 (1992): n. pag. Web. 2 Feb. 2010.
^ Diderot, Denis. "Agnus scythicus." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Malcolm Eden. Ann Arbor: Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library, 2003. Web. Trans. of "Agnus scythicus," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 1. Paris, 1751.

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