top of page


DISCLAIMER: I am sharing with the world wide web what I have learned, used and what are my preferences when creating with wool. I, in no way condone nor abhor the use of man-made material for textiles.

The Jacob is a peculiar sheep, its origin is unknown, its fleece is coarse, and it looks menacing with its four to six protruding horns. May sound mythical, but it exists.


Many modern day Christian Scholars believe it is the beast mentioned in the Old Testament, Genesis 30:31-43. Hebrew Scholars have refuted it. Others claim it was taken to the British Isle on the Galleons of the Spanish Armada. It was named the "Spanish Sheep" when it was first spotted grazing on British Territory after the docking of the Spanish fleet. As of late it is linked to Norway and the Vikings, the Manx Loaghtan breed on the Isle of Man, it has four and up to six horns the one characteristic to link it to the Jacob. The theory, too, is unfounded knowing through historical accounts Vikings raids included livestock from other countries. A commodity for trade, pagan rituals/offerings to Thor. The animals were used in sacrifices for ceremonies and the horns were converted into drinking chalices with belief the horns were from the gods. The horned animals were considered a symbolic "gift from the gods" for the Chieftains to maintain a continued interest for future raids and be in good graces when returning to the Northern Isles.

To me, it strongly resembles Krampus, a Folkloric creature of a pre-Christian winter solstice tradition from extended Germanic territories, now modern-day Austria, Germany, Bavaria, Switzerland and Italy.

He makes his appearance on 05 December, dragging chains and carrying birch rods. On the Eve of St.Nicholas, he carries out his wicked tricks to children who have been naughty throughout the year. Traditionally, in pagan folklore, Krampus would beat the misbehaving children with the birch rods, chain them up and drag them into the underworld (hell).

Abominable Krampus. (Sean Gallup)

Krampus´ physical characteristics through history are: hairy- dark coloured with patches of white, cloven hooves of a goat, four long pointed horns and a long slithering tongue- same as the Jacob.

Conclusion: The Jacob Humbug has been around for centuries and no one really knows where it originated from. To date there is very little genetic mutation within the breed.

The Sheep...

There are approximately 5700 breeding Jacob sheep registered in the United Kingdom and are in conservation risk. Few unregistered livestocks are in the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. It is believed the breeding numbers are in decline. Raised for its high yield of lean meat, it is a larger animal compared to modified breeds, makes it a desirable animal for culinary uses.

The ewes and rams are easily identified by their horns, long and pointy. They usually grow four horns and some grow as many as six in a balanced frame around the head. They are spotted animals, the fleece has patches of black on either a white, grey or brown coat.

At first glance they may appear sinister and intimidating, however they are the most adaptable and docile breed around. Some are known to naturally thin (shed) their fleece as warmer weather approaches being a low maintenance animal.

In the past few years the Jacobs have been purchased as "ornamental pets" by small land owners to protect the animals from extinction. Other buyers acquire them to attract curiosity seekers, asking for donations or paid access to view the animal for residual income. The latter practice soon to be illegal if the population of the Jacob Humbug continues to decline and a stricter protection law is passed.

The Fleece...

The beauty of the Jacob roving is, when carded and blended properly, it can result in a self striping yarn, known as Jacob Humbug, or a gradient yarn with very little effort. It is light, springy and durable while easy on the hands when feeding a bobbin. Experimenting with tension, ratio and with long and short drafts in spinning I have managed to spin up a self striping light DK (double knitting) weight yarn and a lace weight yarn.

The self striping roving, experimental spinning skein.

I used the yarn for a raised embroidery of the tree branches for the gloves. The self striping yarn gives it an illusion of birch trees.

The Jacob is one of the few breeds that do not produce a top coat. The staples are short, averaging 3 inches long and the crimp (waviness) within the fiber allows for body and strength within the spin.

The yarn is not the softest nor loftiest yarn I have spun, however it is not scratchy. Knowing this, I would not wear a jumper directly on my skin, surely most people will not have a problem with the feel of the fabric. I think it is much more ideal for a layered garment and outerwear. Because of its sturdy composition, wonderful for gloves and it is durable for woven rugs.

Needle Felted Jacob Ewe: 8cm (3in)


Jacob roving is springy, has body and felts very easily both in wet felting and needle felting. The blends of its natural colors allow for several shades ranging from greys to brown. When carefully sorted and carded solid white, brown, and black can be separated.

Using a 34 Gauge needle, I made the figure in under an hour.

Caring for handmade Jacob wool garments...

Jacobs wool fabric and garment maintain their shape quite well, however it is an easy felting fiber and some caution needs to be had when washing.


  • Soak in cold water

  • Use Sulfate-Free Detergent

  • Very little agitation

  • Squeeze water from garment NEVER WRING THE GARMENT

  • It can be hung to dry if all water is squeezed from the garment.

©2020-2024 NYC Artist In The Woods. All Rights Reserved.


bottom of page