Not the most exciting of shows

From August 15, 1889:

Training Sheep: Teaching a Stupid Animal to Perform in Public.

Miss Rosa Starr has made a study of sheep, the most timid of animals, writes David Wechsler in the Brooklyn Citizen.  She owns three performing sheep, and they do wonderful tricks.  Her account of the way she succeeded in training them is interesting. 

“It should be known that sheep have scarcely any intelligence, and therefore no memory,” she said.  “Sheep are carried through a number of performances from day to day for months at a time, until they seem to do their tricks merely from instinct.  If they fail to do one trick in their repertoire it is useless to have them try it again at that performance.  If I attempted to to make them go back and do anything they omitted it would confuse them, and they would do nothing.  Nearly all animals keep their eyes on their trainer while going through with a performance, but sheep never do . . .”

“The way I trained the three I have, and they are the only trained sheep in America, was by petting them and getting them used to me.  I handled them daily, patted them on the heads, and finally got them so they knew their names . . . The fact is they are willing to obey, but are too dull to remember or know what to do. . . “

“If they would look at me I am sure I could train them to do many more clever tricks.  As it is, I have taught these three seven or eight tricks that they do twice a day.”

This article really makes you wonder what tricks, exactly, Miss Starr’s sheep performed.  Standing up on four legs?  Blinking? That counts as two so far. . .


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