As. a model, the domestic sheep has always been of interest to the artist. Its stereotypical movements constantly repeated by dozens of companions. in its immediate vicinity, should logically mean an easy to study, whereas the contrary is the case and capable draughtsmen and painters when making such sketches find them most baffling, owing to the lack of any salient points to seize upon. This, however, is largely due to their own lack of knowledge of the one great important fact —namely, the Anatomy of the Wool.
SHEEP. Showing the general direction of the cracking of the wool
A general impression exists that feathers and hair grow from the body in a manner similar to that of the bristles from a door-mat. If that were so, we should expect to find a wrinkling of the feathers similar to that of the human skin becoming apparent at every point of movement during violent action. This, however, does not occur owing to the feathers themselves passing one above another by a telescopic or fanlike movement, laying closely overlapped upon the inner side and upon the outer side allowing a larger portion of each feather to be visible. On this account undue exposure of flesh is seldom noticeable in birds, but in the case of animals it is often more apparent.
Very few animals are without a coat or hairy covering in some form or another, and in most cases this has two characteristics—namely, a woolly undergrowth close to the skin for the purpose of warmth, and an outer covering or thatch, of long and usually straight hairs, for protection against weather.
The latter usually predominates upon the upper parts of the body, and in most cases at the angles of limbs, etc., serving the purpose of a gutter to run away the rain or prevent it settling upon the under side of the body where the more delicate organs are situated. Wool serves better than hair for such portions of the body whereon the skin has excessive play due to the movements of the limb beneath, and consequently distinct areas of wool may be found which appear to crack open when the skin is thus extended. This peculiarity is of great importance from the picturesque point of view, inasmuch as it ceases to exist after the death of the animal, with the result that the slightest of notes from the living model will give something never found in the stuffed specimen. The movements of the head, for example, may be very slight, so much so as to be almost unrecognisable by change in the contour, but this break in the regularity of the hair gives just the amount of emphasis necessary to show the action.
In the domestic sheep the wool has been more or less artificially developed to produce as far as possible an equal quantity all over the body, and the result is a packing of the masses at the points of movement, whilst equal masses betray no movement whatever at points less in action. These latter masses being thus more lethargic are at once seized upon by the inexperienced draughtsman, with the result that unimportant masses are drawn and essentials neglected, and the drawing is a wooden, toy-like sheep without action or life.
Observe the manner in which the neck falls away from the shoulders (Plate it). In very few animals does this occur in so marked a manner, the general rule being for it to take a slight convex form, due to the heavy muscles which support the head. A ewe neck is a term of disparagement often used to denote a similar formation in a horse or dog, with its consequent loss of strength and beauty.
HEAD OF SHEEP. Showing arrangement of wool. Below: Showing the general formation of the body of a sheep beneath the wool covering after clipping.
Careful study of Plate ii will show how high the elbow and hind limbs are set upon the body, with its resultant cracking of the wool at these parts. Comparison should be made on these points between the domestic sheep and wild sheep and goats, whereby the symmetry of Nature has been altered with consequent deterioration of stamina. The domestic sheep is unable to travel either far or fast, whilst the wool is unable to stand continuous rain through the loss of the outer coat of long hairs.
Fig 1 SHOWING DIFFERENCE OF OUTLINE BETWEEN THE WOOL AND THE BODY OF A SHEEP.