Three Elephant Power and Other Stories
The Merino Sheep
People have got the impression that the merino is a gentle, bleating animal that gets its
living without trouble to anybody, and comes up every year to be shorn with a pleased
smile upon its amiable face. It is my purpose here to exhibit the merino sheep in its true
First let us give him his due. No one can accuse him of being a ferocious animal. No one
could ever say that a sheep attacked him without provocation; although there is an old
bush story of a man who was discovered in the act of killing a neighbour's wether.
"Hello!" said the neighbour, "What's this? Killing my sheep! What have you got to say
"Yes," said the man, with an air of virtuous indignation. "I AM killing your sheep. I'll kill
ANY man's sheep that bites ME!"
But as a rule the merino refrains from using his teeth on people. He goes to work in
The truth is that he is a dangerous monomaniac, and his one idea is to ruin the man who
owns him. With this object in view he will display a talent for getting into trouble and a
genius for dying that are almost incredible.
If a mob of sheep see a bush fire closing round them, do they run away out of danger?
Not at all, they rush round and round in a ring till the fire burns them up. If they are in a
river-bed, with a howling flood coming down, they will stubbornly refuse to cross three
inches of water to save themselves. Dogs may bark and men may shriek, but the sheep
won't move. They will wait there till the flood comes and drowns them all, and then their
corpses go down the river on their backs with their feet in the air.
A mob will crawl along a road slowly enough to exasperate a snail, but let a lamb get
away in a bit of rough country, and a racehorse can't head him back again. If sheep are
put into a big paddock with water in three corners of it, they will resolutely crowd into
the fourth, and die of thirst.
When being counted out at a gate, if a scrap of bark be left on the ground in the gateway,
they will refuse to step over it until dogs and men have sweated and toiled and sworn and
"heeled 'em up", and "spoke to 'em", and fairly jammed them at it. At last one will gather
courage, rush at the fancied obstacle, spring over it about six feet in the air, and dart
away. The next does exactly the same, but jumps a bit higher. Then comes a rush of them
following one another in wild bounds like antelopes, until one overjumps himself and
alights on his head. This frightens those still in the yard, and they stop running out.