The miraculous and prophetic ingathering of the exiles to Israel now includes four-legged returnees: Descendants of biblical sheep. Rare and listed as a threatened breed, Jacob's sheep, believed to be the breed which biblical forefathers shepherded across Israel, are making a comeback. A full flock of Jacob's sheep, now found only in North America, will soon return to their homeland.
Small, piebald and crowned distinctively with four horns, Jacob's sheep thrive in desert climates. They are a "heritage" breed, meaning the sheep retain many of their genetic traits and remain relatively unchanged from their origins. The sheep are unique, with devotees who claim the breed is living proof of the Biblical story of Jacob's deal with Laban for which it is named.
No longer found in the Mideast, Israeli flocks today are made up of Awassi sheep, which originated in Syro-Arabian desert and are white, with brown or black faces. Jacob's sheep are distinctly speckled or striped, conforming to the story found in the book of Genesis 30.
In the story, Jacob demands his wages for working for 14 years, claiming the speckled and black sheep that would be born. He removed all the speckled and black sheep and placed poplar, plane and almond branches in the troughs of the stronger sheep, with the bark stripped off in stripes. He separated out the striped and speckled sheep as his own.
Experts believe the unique breed accompanied the Hebrews into slavery in Egypt, and spread from there to North Africa. The Moors traded them to Spain, and then to England. Collectors have since brought them to North America.
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