Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bakewell's sheepish doctrine

A rather amazing illustration (not sure how well it will reproduce here) from Roger J. Wood and Vitezslav Orel's fascinating Genetic Prehistory in Selective Breeding: A Prelude to Mendel:

The caption: "Plaster models of two sheep made from life to scale (2.25 inches to 1 foot, or 1:5.33) by George Garrard: (a) Old Lincoln ewe (c. 1800) and (B) New Leicester ewe (1810). (Copies of photographs supplied by The Natural History Museum Trading Company Ltd (London)."

I can't seem to find the absolutely perfect link on these sheep--here's a good bit, though--really the great account of this era of animal breeding (with great pictures!) is Harriet Ritvo's The Animal Estate. I've been minorly obsessed with Bakewell [ED.: breeder/"inventor" of the New Leicester] for a long time--he gives me a sinister skin-crawling kind of feeling--he really was an artist, and his medium was the actual flesh of real animals, which he bred "in-and-in" for bulk--like an eighteenth-century georgic incarnation of China Mieville's Remades...


  1. Didn´t he have something to do with scrapie (prion disease) in sheep? I think I remember his name from that prion book...

  2. Well, you pretty much don't want to know how he got the animals that big (and yes, Max writes about it in that rather good prion book)--it really was the beginning of the kind of practices that led to all this BSE stuff now...