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Monthly Bible Question | November

Which biblical character used selective breeding of livestock to produce streaked, speckled and spotted sheep and goats?

Jacob (Genesis 30:31-43). Historians say that this is one of the oldest documented examples of selective breeding – by selecting the streaked, speckled and spotted lambs and goats, then encouraging the stronger ones to breed, he eventually built up a large flocks of his own.

Different explanations of Jacob’s curious use of peeled branches in the water troughs have been suggested. Just having the animals look at them would not explain the colouration of the resultant young, but Jacob may have believed that substances in the wood might possibly aid in bringing the animals into heat (unproven), or he may have used the branches to corral the animals near the troughs to encourage breeding.

Sheep trivia: There is a breed of black and white sheep known as Jacob Sheep in the UK and North America. However, Elisha Gootwine, a sheep expert at the Israeli Agriculture Ministry, has said that the resemblance to the sheep in the Bible story is a coincidence, and that the breed is not indigenous to ancient Israel.

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