Today would have been the 15th birthday of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep. Named after the singer Dolly Parton, Dolly caused quite a storm when the news first broke of her birth.
In September 1997, a competition called ‘Do a Design for Dolly’ was launched by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and supported by Portman Building Society. In March the following year, a 12-year-old girl, Holly Wharton, was announced as the winner. Her design was made from Dolly’s wool and is now on display in Making the Modern World.
Dolly got me thinking about other sheep in the collections and a quick search found many more examples than I expected, even outside of our veterinary and agriculture collections.
For example, a sheep’s tooth used in South Devon to ward off toothache. The idea behind this amulet is to supposedly transfer the pain from person to animal tooth. And it wasn’t just sheep’s teeth that were used for this purpose.
Reaching into ancient history, sheep’s livers were used for divination by the Babylonians. This enabled healer-priests to forecast when the most opportune time for treatment would be or to aid diagnosis. The liver was considered the seat of life.
Sheep gut was also used for condoms. This poster comes with the tag line about the fabled 1700s Italian Giacomo Casanova by saying: ‘So if the world’s greatest lover made do with a sheep gut, surely you can use a condom’. Fair point…
Naturally, we have to give a nod to our other well-known sheep – Tracy – a transgenic ewe who was created to supply milk that would hopefully help those with cystic fibrosis. Tracy is normally on display in Making the Modern World but is currently on holiday in another exhibition.