Creature Feature: Lamb of Tartary

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You know making clothes the old fashioned way was really a pain. Remember going out to the fields and pulling down the fresh lambs growing from tall stalks and sheering them? What, you don’t remember that? Surely you remember opening up the long pods to check on the naked baby lambs inside for next years harvest, No? Then you must not have had a Lamb of Tartary.

Looks like a fine crop, I’d say

Dating well before the 16th century, this fascinating little cryptid was documented in Central Asia. The people there claimed the creature was both an animal and a plant. It’s life cycle started as a tall stalk which acted like an umbilical cord to the soil. Pods would then grow, filled with naked lambs and soon they would reach maturity at the very top of the stalk. There the Lamb of Tartary would sway back and forth to eat the grass around it until the food was gone. Without grass to eat it would die of starvation. The locals would come to shave it and drink it’s honey like blood.

In 1887 a writer named Henry Lee caused a stir with his book The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. The book sparked a debate on what parts of the creature were animal and what parts were plant and ultimately listed the cryptid as a fable for the cotton plant. Reasoning that the local people had no idea of “cotton” but knew well that “wool” came from sheep.

They do look pretty similar

There is also strong connection between the Lamb Of Tartary and a Jewish myth called the Yeduah. The Yeduah was said to be a sheep that grew from the ground by a long stalk and only by severing the stalk could the Yeduah be killed. It’s bones were then said to be used in religious divination. Stories about Yeduah were sometimes very violent. The creature was said to sometimes swing down from the stalk and snatch people up.

My thoughts on this strange creature are pretty mixed. I agree that it is most likely allegory for the cotton plant but the strong connection between the Lamb of Tartary and the Jewish Yeduah give me pause. Seems very odd that something from Central Asian myth could show up, almost perfectly mirrored, in old Jewish folklore.

Stay frosty out there


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