Sources : Sheep

Herodotus [c. 484 – c. 425 BCE] (Histories, Book ) They have moreover two marvelous kinds of sheep, nowhere else found. One of these has tails no less than three cubits long. Were the sheep to trail these after them, they would suffer hurt by the rubbing of the tails on the ground; but as it is every shepherd there knows enough of carpentry to make little carts which they fix under the tails, binding the tail of each several sheep on its own cart. The other kind of sheep has tails a full cubit broad. - [Godley translation]

Aristotle [ca. 350 BCE] (De animalibus Book 3, 10.12; 6, 19.1; 9, 4.1): [Book 3, 10.12] There are many waters of such a nature that if sheep drink of them before sexual intercourse, they produce black lambs; as at that which is called the cold river in the Thracian Chalcis. And in Antandria there are two rivers, one of which turns the sheep white, the other black; and the Seamander appears to make the sheep yellow, wherefore some people think that Homer called the Seamander the Xanthus. [Book 6, 19.1] The sheep lives ten years, or generally rather less; but the leaders of the flock live fifteen years; for in every flock they select one of the males as a leader, who, when called by the shepherd, places himself at the head of the flock. They are accustomed to this duty even when young. [Book 9, 4.1] The disposition of sheep, as I have said before, is foolish, and without sense; they are the most cowardly of all animals, and steal away into desert places for no purpose, and in winter often escape from their fold. - [Cresswell translation, 1887]

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 72; 8, 74; 31, 9): [Book 8, 72] Sheep are also of great service either respect of propitiatory offerings to the gods or in the use of their fleeces. As oxen improve men's diet, so the protection of their bodies is owed to sheep. ... They say that male lambs are got when a north wind is blowing and female when a south; and in this breed the greatest attention is given to the mouths of the rams, as the wool in the case of the progeny is of the color of the veins under the tongue of the parent ram, and if these were of several colors the lamb is varicolored. Also changing the water they drink varies their color. [Book 8, 74] Sheep are very weak in the head, and consequently must be made to graze with their backs to the sun. The fleecy sheep is the stupidest of animals; if afraid to go into a place they will follow one of the flock that is taken by the horn. Their longest term of life is 10 years.... [Book 31, 9] Eudicus tells us that in Hestiaeotis are two springs: Cerona, which makes black the sheep that drink of it, and Neleus, which makes them white, while they are mottled if they drink of each. Theophrastus says that at Thurii the Crathis makes oxen and sheep white, and the Sybaris makes them black. - [Rackham translation]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 1:9): A sheep [ovis] is a mild livestock animal, with wool, a defenseless body, and a peaceful temperament, and it is so called from sacrifice [oblatio], because at first the ancients offered not bulls, but sheep, in sacrifice. They call some of them bidens [“two-toothed”] – those with two of their eight teeth longer than the rest; most often the pagans used to sacrifice these.- [Barney, Lewis, et. al. translation]

Thomas of Cantimpré [circa 1200-1272 CE] (Liber de natura rerum, Quadrupeds 4.85): [Thomas has a great deal to say about sheep, much of it repetitious He also repeats some of this from accounts of the ram and wether.] The sheep, as Jacobussays, is the most tame and patient animal; there is nothing monstrous in it. Everything in it is useful: wool, skins, flesh, milk, digestions and the dung itself, in which it rests, so as to rise cooled. The Philosopher says that the white lamb cries 'be'; and the black lamb cries 'me'. If 'be' and 'me' alternate, it is both colors. And so the lamb is such by nature that it knows its mother immediately after birth among the other sheep; but the mother knows the lamb when she smells it on the tail, and admits it to the udder. A shepherd errs, as Ambrose says, in the recognition of the sheep; the lamb does not know how to err in the recognition of its mother. The shepherd is often deceived, but the sheep through piety are not deceived. There is one smell for all, but still by nature it has its own smell, which seems to be scented as a special property by its children. Nature has its ways and sensibilities. As Aristotle says, the shepherds determine a sign of those sheep that can last through the winter: they throw icy water over their tails; the sheep that shake are strong, but those that do not shake are weak. In sheep there is more lacking of the intellect than in other four-footed animals. A sick sheep easily infects others, and for this reason it must be driven out or separated from others. There are four kinds of sheep: some that are not able to go farther to pasture, and need springs and streams; those that are pregnant and heavy need to have a careful shepherd who, according to Isaiah, will carry the babies so that they will not be burdened in the passage. There are also some who run out and wander, who need a shepherd to rebuke them with a rod or hand and bring them back to the flock. There are also some who are fat and strong, who need a shepherd to provide for them, so that they may never lack healthy pasture, so that they do not fail and die. Isidore says that a wether [vervex] has a worm in its head, which when excited by its itching, shakes one another, and when they are fighting, they strike with great force. As the Experimentator says, the ram or sheep sometimes, but rarely has horns formed in the shape of a circle, with which it tries to defend the flock. His meat is harder to digest than that of sheep. They are warmer and less humid. Out of natural ferocity he strikes the ground with his right foot (when he is angry, or stupefied, or afraid), and this especially in the time of love. For half the year it lies on one side, and for half on the other, and in winter on the left, because that is cooler. The lamb is said to be 'acknowledging its mother' [agnoscendo matrem]. The meat of the lamb is difficult to digest, yet it easily descends from the stomach, but is very difficult to dissolve from the limbs, whence they generate a viscous fluid. The lamb of the year - that is 'of one year' [unius anni] - is more laudable for its moderation of humidity and dryness. And it is true that Galen says that their cheese is generally bad; yet Pliny says: Zoroosten lived in the desert for 20 years on a cheese so temperate that he did not feel the pain of any disease. Of course, it must be distinguished in that cheese is generally said to be the worst. There are three things in milk: whey, butter, and cheese. Whey is good, butter is better; but cheese is the worst in itself. It should be noted, therefore, that as cheese is close to milk and is thick and buttery, it is both good and healthy. The cheese becomes full of holes under a little pressure, making liquid filled caves. Whatever flavor you would like, you will be able to make it by adding any seasoning or pepper or any pigment you choose sprinkled in the coagulated powders. The lamb fears the wolf, even if it has never seen one, and immediately flees, though when it sees a horse or any other animal, it neither flees nor is fearful. Pliny: Many winter lambs prefer spring, and only this animal is usefully born in winter. It is natural for the ram to hate the lambs, but is more affectionate to the older ones; the old ram is useful. His ferocity is restrained by drilling a horn near his ear. The right testicle is tied (or cut off) to generate females, and to remove the males. Thunder brings miscarriages to solitary sheep; but the remedy against thunder is to gather them together when pregnant. Males are born by the north wind, and females by the south wind. In the month of July, as Palladius says - an excellent author on the cultivation of vines and seeds - the whitest rams with soft and curly wool are to be chosen, in which the tongue is to be considered. And if it is covered with spots, it produces varied colors in the offspring. From the white is usually born another color; white can never be created from browns. In some countries, sheep generally produce two litters at the same time; in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Italy, sheep give birth twice in one year, whence it can literally be said of them as in the Canticles: All have twin births, and there is not a barren one among them. In sheep, nobility is seen in the shortness of the legs, in the clothing of the belly. For those who have bare bellies were condemned by the 'priscis'. But of those which have a great deal of wool in their tails, it is evident that they are beautiful to behold. The fineness of their wool, and the recurved curliness and compactness of the wool, are proved to be exceptional.Sheep are affected by drinking a lot of water, and this more so in the afternoon if they have drunk turbulent water; whence also certain shepherds are wont to give them salt in their food, that they may drink more; and thereby they abound more in milk (Aristotle). Sheep are sterile if fat. Sheep, especially among all four-footed animals, give milk for a long time, namely for eight months. The milk of black sheep is more plentiful and better; but it is the contrary in goats: for the milk of white goats is better than that of black goats. If sheep or goats are impregnated in a place opposite the north wind, males are born, and in the south wind, they are born females; but they must have their faces turned, either to the north or to the south. Accordingly, if there are veins under his tongue that are white, it will make the child white, if black, it will make it black; if of two colors, of two similar colors; if red, red. At the coming of winter the sheep become insatiable for food, as Ambrose says, and snatches the grass insatiably, because it foresees a rough winter to come, so that it may satisfy itself with grass for fodder before all the grass fails by the burning frost.Sheep live longer when lead to pasture in dry places; but in marshy places, if they have frequently taken pasture there, they become sickly and cannot live long. The life of sheep is ten years, or more than twelve. Sheep breed up to eight years and, if well kept, up to eleven. They say that they die soon after May, or in the May season, if honey-dew falls on the grass at night; but even in the month of August, if they have eaten dry ears of corn to the point of satiety and afterwards drank, they immediately die of ruptured bowels. They often graze on the grass to the roots, and the uprooted plants will not survive. But its bite is fatal to many plants. A sheep can hardly be driven out of a burning building; but if it is driven out, unless it is held by force, it returns to the fire. They are a good breed of sheep that recognize their shepherd from others and flee from thieves. For it is certain that some distinguish their own shepherd from others. The dung of sheep is considered the best of all animals. Everything that is in it is useful and yields to human use. If the sheep can drink from the wells having salt water, they must precede the copulation. But if the younger sheep hasten to mate, it is a bad sign and a sign of a plague among them. Shepherds teach sheep to walk quickly at the sound of a voice. Accordingly, if it happens that she remains alone while pregnant and hears thunder, she will suddenly abort. In many parts of the world, sheep produce two litters, and this is especially true in Ethiopia. A sheep can conceive up to nine years. But if an old ewe seeks copulation after the due time, it is a sign of evil. What, then, does a woman ask after the time of conception to resume the secrets of the bed? Although this is not prohibited by divine law, it seems that in the animals themselves nature declines as if it were illegal. We foretold that this was a sign of evil in the sheep, and we find that it also bore a sign of evil in the women, because those who had previously lived peacefully, were destroyed by repeated intercourse. - [Badke translation/paraphrase]

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (Liber de proprietatibus rerum, Book18.80): A Shéepe is called Ovis, and is a softe Beast, and beareth Woll, and is unarmed in body, and pleasing in heart: and hath that name Ovis, of Oblacio, offering: for men in olde time offered shéepe in sacrifice, and not Buls, as Isidore saith libro. 12. And some of these beasts are called Bidentes, as it were with two teeth, for among eight teeth two passe the other. And Nations used them most in sacrifice, as Isidore sayeth. Or else they bée called Bidentes, as the age meneth Quasi biennes, as they were of two yeares old: For of that age they were, when they were chosen to sacrifice: but most verily they have the name of two strouting téeth, with the which they be yaned. And li. 5. Aristotle speaketh of shéepe, and saith, that they conceive and yane until 8. yeare. And li. 7. if sheepe conceive toward the Northen wind, they conceive males. And if they conceive toward ye Southern winde, then they conceive females. And such as the veines bée under the shéepes tongue, of such colour is the lambe when he is yaned. Look before de Agnis & Ariete. And when old shéep be moved to generation in certeine time ordeined, the shepheards say, that it is a good signe in them: And if young shéep be moved so, they tell yt it betokeneth pestilence among shéep in that yéere. Also libro. 8. Aristotle sayth, that shéepe conceive in drinking water, and therefore heardes give them Salte to eate, to make them drinke the more, and to conceive the more faster, and to kéepe them the more safe and whole without all kind of sicknesse. And also in Harvest they give to them Cucurbitas, such hearbes, & salt them to make much milke in their teates. And shéepe conceive with Tilles and salt: & if shéepe fast thrée daies and eate afterward, then they ware soone fat. And colde water of the North is good to them in Summer, & warme water of ye South is good to the¯ in harvest: and meat helpeth them in the end of the daye & of the night: For by farre wayes and long travaile they waxe leane, and heards know which of them maye dure in Winter, for upon some is found Ise, & uppon some no Ise is founde, and some of them bée féeble and may not shake off the Ise. And shéepes flesh yt is nourished in watry places is evill, as flesh of other foure footed beasts is, that bée nourished in places that be right moyst and watry, and those that have long tailes maye worse away with winter, then those that have broade tailes, and those that have litte Wooll and crispe, may worst away with Winter. And Wooll of shéepe that a Wolfe eateth, is infected, & the cloth that is made thereof is lousie. Also libro. 8. he saith, that in shéep is lesse wit and understanding the¯ in another foure footed beast. And Thunder gréeveth them, and if one abide alone, & if it be in the eventide, it may happen that she shall cast her lambe for dread. Also li. 8. ca. 67. Plinius sayth, that thundering maketh solitary shéep to cast their lambs. The remedy and helpe thereof is, to gather & bring them together into one flocke. Looke before in this same booke, in littera A. where he treateth de Ariete & Agno. - [Batman]