The Primordial Alliance of Sheep, Man and Dog: Thoughts on the Year of the Ram


For over a decade, I have regularly attended the annual Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York, a celebration of all things sheep. Scores of stalls sell hand-crafted woolen sweaters, photographs of sheep, spindles, spinning wheels, fleece, books about sheep and so on. The sheep, of many breeds, are present as well, and they are obviously raised with a great deal of care and affection. Visitors constantly admire them, touch samples of their wool, talk gently to them and ask questions about them. A few sheep appear to bask in the attention, and most appear indifferent to it, but all appear at least content.

Several stalls offer lamb and mutton; loving sheep and eating them have, for millennia, gone together with surprisingly little tension. It is hard to imagine a festival in which the love of pigs and the taste of pork are celebrated in such comfortable proximity. But relationships that we lump together under the heading of “domestication” do not follow any single pattern or prototype. The bond with humanity is profoundly different for dogs, pigs, bees, sheep and other animals. Each relation entails unique values, duties, uses, problems, symbols and mythologies. This celebration in Rhinebeck will seem —> Read More Here


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