Caroline Dotson: ‘Beautiful Sheep’ showcases amazing art |

Caroline Dotson: ‘Beautiful Sheep’ showcases amazing art

Sheep farming is one of the oldest “organized industries” in the world. In “Beautiful Sheep” by Kathryn Dun and Paul Farnham, portraits of champion sheep breeds are beautifully showcased with pictures and corresponding information for each breed.

The book’s introduction explains the history of sheep and how sheep were recognized in 12th century B.C. for their wool, meat and milk. It is speculated that all well-known and popular breeds stem from three types, all originally from Britain. Sheep first were brought to the Americas by Columbus; he brought ancestors of the Churros breed.

Crossbreeding became an art as farmers from different countries wanted different qualities in the sheep. Sheep are divided into three classes: wool, hair and sheep-meat varieties.

Showing sheep started in the 1700s when farmers brought their best sheep to compete against neighboring farmers. Sheep showing still is very important to the culture in rural areas all over the world. The judges look for specific characteristics that are special to the breed of sheep they are judging, but mostly they are look for a sheep that catches their eye.

What caught my eye, as I read through the pages dedicated to the championship breeds, was the Manx Loghtan found on the Isle of Man. This is a rare breed with four horns on the ram’s head, two that point up and out, and two that curl under. The Manx Loghtan is used for its flavorsome meat and its exceptional wool.

Another beautiful sheep is the Suffolk. It is known as the most popular purebred in the USA. They have lovely black faces and wool that looks soft enough to curl up on and take a nap. They are well-known for their fast growth and health conscious meat.

The last section of the books is a behind-the-scenes look at sheep shows. Different photo collages feature different sheep shows including the Singleton Show in Chichester, West Sussex; the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Powys in Wales; and the Sheep and Fiber Festival in the USA.

The sheep models in this book are not the kind of sheep you find on a farm. These sheep have been washed, trimmed and shined for perfection. They truly are stunning, a living work of art in their own right.

The presentation of the book invites any lover of rural or farming backgrounds to fall in love with the sheep that decorate each page. “Beautiful Sheep” is a great Christmas gift for anyone who is connected to sheep or finds joy in unusual art photographs.

Caroline Dotson, of Downtown Books, reviews books for the Craig Daily Press. She can be reached at


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