History of Animals

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


Ewes conceive after three or four copulations with the ram. If rain falls after intercourse, the ram impregnates the ewe again; and it is the same with the she-goat. The ewe bears usually two lambs, sometimes three or four. Both ewe and she-goat carry their young for five months; consequently wherever a district is sunny and the animals are used to comfort and well fed, they bear twice in the year. The goat lives for eight years and the sheep for ten, but in most cases not so long; the bell-wether, however, lives to fifteen years. In every flock they train one of the rams for bell-wether. When he is called on by name by the shepherd, he takes the lead of the flock: and to this duty the creature is trained from its earliest years. Sheep in Ethiopia live for twelve or thirteen years, goats for ten or eleven. In the case of the sheep and the goat the two sexes have intercourse all their lives long.

Twins with sheep and goats may be due to richness of pasturage, or to the fact that either the ram or the he-goat is a twin-begetter or that the ewe or the she-goat is a twin-bearer. Of these animals some give birth to males and others to females; and the difference in this respect depends on the waters they drink and also on the sires. And if they submit to the male when north winds are blowing, they are apt to bear males; if when south winds are blowing, females. Such as bear females may get to bear males, due regard being paid to their looking northwards when put to the male. Ewes accustomed to be put to the ram early will refuse him if he attempt to mount them late. Lambs are born white and black according as white or black veins are under the ram’s tongue; the lambs are white if the veins are white, and black if the veins are black, and white and black if the veins are white and black; and red if the veins are red. The females that drink salted waters are the first to take the male; the water should be salted before and after parturition, and again in the spring-time. With goats the shepherds appoint no bell-wether, as the animal is not capable of repose but frisky and apt to ramble. If at the appointed season the elders of the flock are eager for intercourse, the shepherds say that it bodes well for the flock; if the younger ones, that the flock is going to be bad.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "19," History of Animals, trans. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson Original Sources, accessed February 4, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NPDS7RS5JVF667.

MLA: Aristotle. "19." History of Animals, translted by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Original Sources. 4 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NPDS7RS5JVF667.

Harvard: Aristotle, '19' in History of Animals, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 4 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NPDS7RS5JVF667.