Sheep were domesticated 10,000 years ago in Central Asia, but it wasn't until 3,500 B.C. that man learned to spin wool. Sheep helped to make the spread of civilization possible. Sheep production was well established during Biblical times. There are many references to sheep in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. Sheep production is man's oldest organized industry. Wool was the first commodity of sufficient value to warrant international trade. Lambs are usually linked to the Christian "Lamb of God" tradition. They represent gentleness, innocence, purity and sacrifice. When a coat of arms with lambs is displayed, it suggests a pious and religiously faithful family. A lamb carrying a staff or banner with a cross depicts the Paschal lamb (Christ represented in perfect sacrifice) for the religious faithful. In the 1400's, Queen Isabella of Spain used money derived from the wool industry to finance Columbus and other Conquistador voyages. In 1493 on his second voyage to the New World, Columbus took sheep with him as a "walking food supply." The Spaniards left some sheep in Mexico and South America whose ancestors survive today in the land of the Navajo.
Sheep are gentle animals that have long been domesticated, living peacefully in groups and alongside humans. The Navajo people of North America associate sheep with living the good life and being in harmony with the land.
The lamb in particular is emblematic of sacrifice and the patient endurance of suffering. In the Jewish religion, the lamb was offered at the command of God for Passover. The term "sacrificial lamb" refers to a person or thing given in order to preserve others.
Sheep are mentioned throughout the Christian bible and are associated with Christians who are led by Christ, the good shepherd. In early Christian iconography, a sheep carried on the shoulders of a good shepherd symbolizes the soul being carried to heaven after death.
The coat of arms of Canvey Island
Formally granted in the 1970s, the arms of this reclaimed island in south east England bring together various symbols of its former industries. The couchant sheep is a reminder of the flocks that once thrived on the island's rich pastures.
The heraldic sheep has symbolised a connection with the wool industry for hundreds of years, and continues to do so today. The Pennsylvania-based Woolrich company, founded in 1830, uses a highly stylised statant guardant sheep for its Penn-rich line.
The Serta Mattress Company is the biggest selling mattress in the United States.
Sheep Business logos
The Black Sheep Brewery in England, the Brown Sheep Yarn Company, and the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company all feature sheep on their letterheads and logos.
The Black Sheep Squadron with a sheep on its patch made famous in World War II, and the television show Baa Baa Black Sheep, is still in operation today in Yuma, Arizona.