Sheep or Goat?

Sheep or Goat?

If, like me, you shop eBay for goat and sheep memorabilia, you know that sellers often mistake sheep for goats and vice versa. They look a lot alike in many ways but there are obvious differences too.

A black goat sticks his head inside a roll of woven wire fence to see what's inside.
Goats’ tails stick up unless the goat is sick or frightened, then they hang down.

Goats’ tails stick up unless they’re sick or frightened. Goat tails are naturally short, with a cute fringe of longer hair at the sides. Sheep’s tails hang down, always. Most breeds of wool sheep are born with long, woolly tails that are docked (shortened) when they’re young lambs to help prevent flystrike, a nasty condition whereby blowflies lay their eggs in the wool on a sheep’s manure-encrusted tail. When the eggs hatch into hungry maggots,

A white lamb with a long tail.
Unless they’ve been docked (their tails shortened for hygienic reasons), sheep have long, woolly tails like this lamb

the maggots secrete enzymes that liquefy their host’s flesh and create an open wound. Nasty! However, hair sheep like Katahdins, Dorpers, St. Croix, and Barbados Blackbellies have hair instead of wool on their tails. Wool sheep from the Northern European short-tail group like Icelandics, Finnsheep, Romanovs, Soay, and Shetlands have short fluke-shaped tails, broad at the base and tapering to a hair-covered tip. None of these sheep breeds are traditionally docked but their tails hang straight down and can’t be mistaken for the tails of goats. Continue reading “Sheep or Goat?”

Guinness World (Sheep) Records

According to Wikipedia, “Guinness World Records, known from its inception in 1955 until 1998 as The Guinness Book of Records and in previous U.S. editions as The Guinness Book of World Records, is a reference book published annually, listing world records both of human achievements and the extremes of the natural world.” Some of those records involve sheep:

The highest price ever paid for a sheep is £231,000 ($369,000), paid by Jimmy Douglas for the eight-month-old Texel ram, Deveronvale Perfection, in Lanark, Scotland, in August of 2009.

World-record selling Texel ram, Deveronvale Perfection.
Deveronvale Perfection, a young Texel ram, sold for a record £231,000 ($369,000) in 2009.

The Guinness World Record-holding oldest sheep, Lucky, was a 23 year-old Polwarth-Dorchester ewe who died in Lake Bolac, in Victoria, Australia, in 2009. In 2006, the previous record holder, a Merino wether named George, died in Warren, New South Wales, Australia, at 21 years of age. Both were bottle-raised pet lambs. Continue reading “Guinness World (Sheep) Records”

Jacob Biggle’s Vintage Livestock and Farming Books

If you love old livestock and farming books as much as I do, visit the Biodiversity Heritage Library and download Jacob Biggle’s Biggle Farm Library books for free.

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The cover and frontpiece of The Biggle Swine BookWikipedia says, “The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global ‘biodiversity commons.'”

What this means is that through them you can access over 200,000 vintage agricultural and natural history books and journals and download them as PDF files at no cost whatsoever. And their selection is outstanding! It includes all ten Biggle books including my favorite old-time sheep guide, the: Biggle Sheep Book: Something practical about sheep; all wool and a yard wide, mutton chops cooked to the taste of the most fastidious. Continue reading “Jacob Biggle’s Vintage Livestock and Farming Books”

Sheep in World Mythology

The history of sheep is the history of the human race. Even before man (and woman, whose duty it probably was to breast-feed the first captive lambs, yes, really) domesticated sheep, he relied on wild ones for meat to fill his belly and hides to keep him warm. Little wonder it is that sheep played starring roles in myth and religion since time began.

The Navajo, whose word for sheep, dibeh, means “that by which we live”, say Changing Woman, daughter of First Boy and First Girl, created sheep out of white mist, white shell, turquoise, abalone shell, and jet.

Or consider the forgetful sheep in a tale told by Ohafia elders of Nigeria. Their supreme god, Chukwu, decided to tell the People that if they laid their dead on the ground and covered them with ashes, this would bring them back to life. He usually sent a dog with important messages but the dog was tired, so he sent a friendly sheep instead. The sheep forgot the message, but wanting to be helpful, he guessed. He told the People to bury the bodies of their dead. Chukwa later sent the dog with the correct information but the People believed the friendly sheep instead. Continue reading “Sheep in World Mythology”

Private Derby – Enlisted Sheep

Did you know that military units sometimes keep pets as mascots? Private Derby is the first of several sheep, goat, donkey, mule, and horse mascots I plan to blog about. He’s a member of the 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) in Derby, England. Private Derby is a Swaledale ram – the 31st Private Derby to date.

The 95th Derbyshire Regiment of Foot, forerunner of the 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment, acquired the first Private Derby in 1858 at the siege and capture of Kotah, in India, when the unit’s commanding officer spied a handsome fighting ram tethered in a temple yard. He requisitioned the ram, which then marched more than 3,000 miles with the regiment. During that time, the first Private Derby was undefeated in 33 matches against other fighting rams. At war’s end he was awarded an Indian Campaign Metal, the only British mascot to win one. He died in 1863. Continue reading “Private Derby – Enlisted Sheep”