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A sheep with biblical connections


WOOL YOU BE MINE? Joshua Kelly-Hawkshaw (7) from Brackloon, was delighted to meet a piebald Jacob Sheep lamb and the rest of its unusual flock.
A chance encounter with a most unusual, and very historical, sheep breed

Sonia Kelly

It is not often that people who go for a bicycle ride in the countryside get taken back three thousand years. Yet this happened recently to a mother and her small son.
They were passing a cottage in the vicinity of Westport when two cats were spotted sitting outside. The small boy immediately got down to pet them, and they were soon joined by the owners, who came out and asked if they would like to see some lambs. You can guess the answer.
They were ushered inside to the farm. There, in a field, was a flock of rather strange-looking sheep-like animals with brown and white fleeces, and one black lamb among them, which to the child’s delight he was able to pick up and cuddle.
“Meet the Jacob Sheep,” says John, the farmer. He goes on to explain how he acquired such unusual stock. He knew of another farmer who was giving up on them and agreed to take the nucleus over. Because owners are scarce, a society of Jacob Sheep has been formed, the members of which share a suitable ram to keep the breed pure.
The Jacob is said to be the oldest breed of sheep dating back three thousand years to Jacob, the biblical patriarch. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, and he was renowned for being able to talk to God.
It looks as though he was also aware of the law of attraction and knew how to marshal his thoughts to achieve success, because at some point he and his brother Esau were dividing a flock of their father Isaac’s sheep. Jacob was assigned the ones whose lambs had striped colouring and, after a chat with God, ended up with the most, and thus his own flock was increased.
Subsequently, he dreamed of wrestling with an angel, and it seemed the angel disapproved of his devious victory over Esau, so he said that Jacob would be later known as Israel – which means wrestling with an angel.
Jacob had 12 sons and they came to be known as twelve tribes of Israel. And so, sheep can be said to have caused the state of Israel, as well as the long-lasting memory of Jacob.

A published author and poet, and a former Mayo News columnist, Sonia Kelly is the founder of the Cloona Health Centre in Westport.