The Jacob Sheep Story
Jacob Sheep are an ancient domesticated breed of sheep. Jacobs have been bred in England
in their present form for over 350 years. But their historical antecedents may go back, as some
people believe, to the Old Testament, to the spotted sheep of Jacob, father of the twelve Hebrew
patriarchs -- the leaders of the twelve tribes.
In what is now Syria, young Jacob worked for his uncle Laban -- his wage being that he was given
all the spotted animals. Jacob placed spotted branches around nearby watering holes, believing that
this would cause the ewes to conceive spotted lambs. In a dream, God instructed Jacob, with perhaps
the more sound advice to breed only spotted rams. Jacob created an almost entirely spotted flock
in what must be one of the earliest documented examples of selective breeding.
Jacob Sheep came to the United States via Britain, in the early 1900's, for use in zoos and
animal parks. Greater numbers began to be imported in the 1950's and 1960's. By the late 1980's,
the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association was established.
Along with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
and the Jacob Sheep Conservancy, the JSBA
has been instrumental in establishing this rare breed in the United States. In fact, during the 1970's
the breed almost became instinct in its home of Britain. It was, ironically, American Jacobs that helped
restore the breed there.
So why raise Jacobs? Well, first, there is the story and lineage, whether actual or wistful, with that
first flock of documented spotted sheep in the Old Testament. There is the naturally colored fleece,
prized by hand spinners and weavers. And then there are those horns -- sometimes two, sometimes four, and
sometimes even six. Like most animals that have been spared "breeding up", they retain their survival
characteristics, lamb easily, are generally resistant to parasites, and are well adapted. In addition,
they recently placed high in a taste test of many of the heritage sheep breeds. Jacob Sheep are a versatile,
unique breed, which is a distinct pleasure to observe and raise here at Agarita Creek Farms.