This reference to “black sheep” goes back further than I found in a post already on here. There is one that goes back even further than the one posted below, as a misinterpretation of a verse in Genesis. I don’t trust the documentation though.
The first record of ‘black sheep’ in a derogatory sense that I can find in print is from an English Puritan who emigrated to America in 1635, the appropriately named Thomas Shepard, in the evangelical text The Sincere Convert, 1640:
Cast out all the Prophane people among us, as drunkards, swearers, whores, lyers, which the Scripture brands for blacke sheepe, and condemnes them in a 100. places.
Hosea 13, verse 15: “Even though Ephraim ran wild, the black sheep of the family. God’s tornado is on its way, roaring out of the desert. It will devastate the country, leaving a trail of ruin and wreckage. The cities will be gutted, dear possessions gone for good.”
Black sheep have always been a genetic anomaly, so why wouldn’t there have been any Black sheep in the herds of the ancient Israelites? So, there would have to be a term for them in Hebrew unless they just pointed at them and grunted.
I wouldn’t say that black sheep are a genetic “anomaly”. Just that it’s an undesired naturally occurring trait.
Note that the appearance of a black sheep in a flock doesn’t just mean that you are not going to get the preferred wool from that sheep, but that you have a flock of lesser value overall since you aren’t likely to get all white sheep in the future and others might not want to purchase your sheep for breeding.
One black sheep is a bad thing for the whole flock.
What it says is “בן אחים [יפריא]”, which may be some wordplay (אח vs אחו?), but any reference to sheep is transparently the translator’s interpretation: first, deciding that the phrase means “savage among his brothers” instead of “flourishing among reeds”, and, second, turning that into “black sheep”. Unless I am missing something.
The main reason it reduces the value of the flock is fleece contamination. Black fibers get caught in the wool of the white sheep, and end up in the clip. This isn’t just a problem with back sheep: it’s a characteristic of wool, you also get polypropylene contamination from bailing twine, and hair contamination from goats, all of which reduce the value of the fleece.
Yes, but the gene for black wool is recessive. For a black lamb to be born requires both dam and sire to carry the recessive gene.
While black lambs are usually culled, or at least separated (to prevent contamination of the clip), their mothers usually aren’t, nor may it be possible to identify the father. Unless both parents are culled the gene survives.
Essentially all flocks of sheep will carry the recessive black wool gene, it’s just chance and Mendelian genetics as to if/when/how often it will manifest.
“Black” wool can range in colour from black to brown to yellow to silver though rarer. “Normal” white sheep are not albino, which also exist.