The remarkable story of the humble animal that built the modern world.

Gripping tale of the history of our civilisation through man's relationship with sheep.


What was the most important step in civilization? Alan Butler's answer is that it was when we began capturing wild sheep, domesticating and breeding them. Sheep were the mainstay of ancient cultures, by far the most important of the domesticated animals. Able to survive almost anywhere, over-wintering successfully, they provided not just milk, meat and skin, but warm clothing. This is why so many of the earliest gods and their myths are sheep related, from the Egyptian Ra (ram) to the later Christian Lamb of God. But sheep have not only sustained us for thousands of years. Sheep farming also underpinned the growth of European nation states, international trade and modern economies. In effect sheep built the modern world. The demands of the woollen textile industry both drove and financed the Industrial Revolution. The British Empire was founded on wool. The space needed for sheep drove millions off the land, many of whom took them to Australasia and the Americas. With over a billion sheep in the world today the humanity-sheep relationship represents the most successful example of mammalian symbiosis on the planet. The story of the sheep is the story of humanity, a surprisingly exciting and gripping tale that deserves to be told. Spanning a vast period of time, it includes some of the most famous names that have been left to us by history, and many that deserve to better recognised.


A rattling good read! ~ , Reading Clinic, BBC Radio 4

An eminently readable story that will fascinate and surprise the reader on every page. Step by step he explains how our dependence on sheep has caused wars, forged empires, inspired technological advances, displaced millions of people and has ultimately led to the world we know today. ~ , Sheep Farmer

Amid all the diverse events that constitute human history there are perhaps a handful of really key ones- and, connecting these, a few underlying threads. Some of these are more consistent than others, but few more so than the humble sheep. So fundamental is the relationship that the author has uncovered between this unobtrusive creature and human civilization that it is no exaggeration to describe it as symbiotic. Without sheep we would not be who we are. Equally without civilization the sheep as we know it would not exist. Such are the bare bones, but they scarcely do justice to this wild and wonderful story. ~ , Watkins Review

Besides history there are also good practical bits of information in this book. It is not a sheep history book, but rather a collection of sheep related historical accounts written in an easy-to-read style. ~ Eva Griffith, Sheep!

Alan Butler
Alan Butler Alan Butler has had a life-long interest in sheep. He writes stage and radio plays, and has published Civilization One, The Templar Continuu...
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