From the plains of ancient Mesopotamia to the rolling hills of medieval England to the vast sheep farms of modern-day Australia, the domesticated ungulates of the genus Ovis—sheel—have been central to the human story.
Starting with our Neolithic ancestors' first forays into sheep-rearing nearly 10,000 years ago, these remarkable animals have fed us, clothed us, changed our diet and languages, helped us to win wars, decorated our homes, and financed the conquest of large swathes of the earth. Enormous fortunes and new, society-changing industries have been made from the fleeces of sheep, and cities shaped by shepherds' markets and meat trading.
Sally Coulthard weaves the rich and fascinating story of sheep into a vivid and colorful tapestry, thickly threaded with engaging anecdotes and remarkable ovine facts, whose multiple strands reflect the deep penetration of these woolly animals into every aspect of human society and culture.
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Table of Contents
1 How to Get a Sheep to Stand Still 1
A man buried with a fox, a breastfed lamb and the secrets of ancient wee
2 Wool's Scaly Secret 17
A 2,400-year-old woman frozen in time, fireproof underpants and corsets for Roman soldiers
3 Why Some Sheep are so Rooed 33
A mummy's tattoos, the invention of scissors and a ram on the run
4 Tough as Old Boots 47
Lactose intolerance, Cyclops the cheesemaker and a sheep with two heads
5 Rhymes and Ridiculous Cures 65
Bumfits, black sheep and the wrong star sign
6 Mr and Mrs Bo-Peep 85
Shepherd wanted, blasted sheep and the saving grace of crushed testicles
7 Dogs and Drovers 107
Come By, Corgis and the Bank of Black Sheep
8 Scouring and Spinning 127
Fairies, fleece grease and extra soft loo roll
Knit for Victory 147
The world's oldest socks, workhouses and how wool helped win the war
10 'Sheepe Hath Payed For It All' 175
Wool churches, white monks and the crime of owling
11 Sheep Devour People 195
Ghost ships, green cheese and 'Get off my land'
12 Spinning a Yarn 219
Fisherman's jumpers, men in tights and a famous execution
13 Mills and Boom 237
White slavery, wool-lined coffins and 'la maladie de Bradford'
14 Up, Up and Away 261
Bad science, sex and sheep in space