What Do Sheep Symbolize? Discover the Deeper Meaning Behind This Common Animal

When it comes to the animal kingdom, sheep seem to be quite mysterious creatures. They are often underestimated for their quiet demeanor and simplistic nature. However, if you take a closer look, you may find that sheep actually hold a great deal of symbolic meaning in different cultures and communities around the world.

For starters, sheep are often associated with themes of innocence and purity. This is partly due to their soft, white fleece, which is seen as a physical manifestation of these qualities. In various religions and spiritual practices, sheep are seen as divine creatures that represent a connection to higher powers and an embodiment of positive virtues like kindness, gentleness, and humility.

However, sheep also have another side to them that is not as commonly recognized. They can also symbolize conformity and the tendency to follow the crowd, often to a fault. This is because sheep are known for their herd mentality and their willingness to follow a leader without question. While this trait can have its benefits in certain contexts, it can also lead to a lack of critical thinking and independence, which can be detrimental in the long run. So, what does it really mean to be a sheep? Let’s find out.

Sheep Symbolism in Different Cultures

Throughout history, sheep have been a symbol of many things in multiple cultures. They are primarily associated with peace, gentleness, and purity. Let’s take a closer look at how sheep are viewed in various cultures around the world.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptians believed that sheep possessed the qualities of benevolence and satisfaction and were considered sacred animals. They believed that sheep represented fertility and were associated with the goddess Isis, the goddess of motherhood and fertility.


Sheep were mentioned multiple times in the Bible, and they represent obedience, sacrifice, and purity. Jesus Christ is often referred to as the “lamb of God,” and his followers are often referred to as his sheep. Christians believe that following Christ’s lead is essential for living a pure and pleasing life.

Celtic Culture

  • Sheep were perceived as a symbol of creativity and poetry in Celtic culture, and the term “ewe” or “yew” was used to illustrate the muse, a source of poetic inspiration
  • The sheep was also emblematic of fertility and the natural cycle of birth, death, and regeneration

Chinese Culture

In ancient Chinese culture, sheep brought prosperity, especially in agriculture, by foraging and fertilizing the earth. Sheep were also believed to embody auspiciousness, luck, and protection from evil spirits by warding them off.

Inca Culture

WoolSymbolized warmth, comfort, and protection
Sheep’s MilkRepresented nourishment and strength for the Inca people
Sheep SacrificeSheep were often sacrificed to the gods to protect the Inca people from disease and bad luck

The Inca people revered sheep for their wool and the milk they provided. They often used sheep wool in clothing to provide warmth and protection. The sheep was also an essential animal for sacrifice to the gods, as they believed that sacrificing an animal would ward off bad luck and disease.

Sheep as a symbol of innocence and purity

Sheep have long been associated with innocence and purity due to their meek and gentle nature. Their soft, white wool is often seen as a representation of purity and cleanliness.

  • The Bible often uses sheep as a symbol of innocence and purity. In the Old Testament, sheep were used for sacrifices to atone for sins, symbolizing the purity needed to make amends for wrongdoings. In the New Testament, Jesus is often referred to as the “Good Shepherd,” who leads his followers, or “sheep,” to salvation. This association with purity and innocence has carried over into modern times.
  • In literature, sheep are often portrayed as gentle, innocent creatures. In George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, the sheep are easily manipulated and are used to represent the gullible masses who blindly follow their leaders without question. The innocence and purity of the sheep in the novel is contrasted with the corruption and greed of the pigs who lead them.
  • Sheep have also been used as symbols in art, often depicted in pastoral scenes with idyllic landscapes and peaceful settings. The purity and innocence of the sheep in these works of art are meant to evoke a sense of calm and serenity in the viewer.

Overall, the association of sheep with innocence and purity has been consistent throughout history, from religious texts to literature and art. This gentle, meek creature has come to represent all that is good and pure in the world, reminding us to strive for that same kind of innocence and purity in our own lives.

Sheep in Religious Symbolism

Throughout history, sheep have been associated with various religious beliefs and customs. In many religions, they are considered to be highly symbolic animals that carry spiritual meanings and values. In Christianity, for example, sheep are often used as a metaphor for good and faithful followers of the faith.

  • Sheep in Christianity
  • Sheep in Judaism
  • Sheep in Islam

Sheep in Christianity

In Christianity, sheep are prominent symbols in both the Old and New Testaments. They are often portrayed as loyal and obedient followers of God who listen to his voice and follow his commands. In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep to safety and protects them from harm.

Sheep in Judaism

Sheep have a special significance in Judaism as they were often used for sacrifices in the temple. They also symbolize purity and innocence, and are associated with Passover, where the Jews sacrificed a lamb and used its blood to mark their doors during the time of the Ten Plagues.

Sheep in Islam

Islam also has a strong tradition of using sheep for sacrifice during the Hajj pilgrimage. Sheep represent obedience and submission to God, and are used as a symbol of sacrifice and devotion to the faith.

Symbolism of the Number 3

ReligionSymbolism of the Number 3
ChristianityTrinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
JudaismThe three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
IslamThree fundamental pillars of Islam: faith, prayer, and charity

In addition to the symbolism of sheep in religious traditions, the number 3 is also highly symbolic in many religions. In Christianity, the number 3 symbolizes the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Judaism, it is associated with the three patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Islam, the number 3 represents the three fundamental pillars of Islam – faith, prayer, and charity.

Overall, sheep are deeply engrained in religious symbolism and traditions. They offer a powerful image of devotion, purity, and sacrifice, and continue to hold an important place in various religious practices around the world.

Sheep as a Symbol of Sacrifice

Sheep have been used as a symbol of sacrifice across cultures throughout history. In many religious traditions, sheep are the preferred animal for sacrifice, as they were considered pure, humble, and blameless creatures. The act of sacrifice involved offering up the sheep to a deity or spiritual power as a way of showing devotion, gratitude, or atonement.

  • In Judaism, sheep were used for sacrifice in the time of the Temple in Jerusalem. The practice of sacrifice was seen as a way to connect with God and seek forgiveness for sins. The offering of a sheep was a symbol of the worshipper’s willingness to give up something valuable in order to show their devotion.
  • In Islam, the Festival of Sacrifice is one of the most important religious holidays of the year. During this festival, Muslims sacrifice a sheep, goat, or other animal as a symbol of their willingness to obey God’s commands and follow in the footsteps of the prophet Abraham.
  • In Christianity, the term “lamb of God” is often used to refer to Jesus as the sacrificial lamb who gave his life for the sins of humanity. The imagery of the lamb also appears in the book of Revelation, where it is described as standing on Mount Zion as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and victory over evil.

The sacrifice of a sheep also has symbolic significance outside of religious contexts. In many cultures, the act of sacrificing a sheep is seen as a way of giving thanks, making amends, or appeasing the spirits. For example, in Celtic mythology, the goddess Brigid was associated with sheep and the hearth, and offerings of sheep were made to her as a way of ensuring fertility, prosperity, and protection.

In addition to being a symbol of sacrifice, sheep also embody qualities such as innocence, meekness, and obedience. These qualities are often associated with sacrifice, as the act of giving oneself up for a greater cause requires humility, selflessness, and a willingness to submit to a higher power. The sacrifice of a sheep, therefore, represents not only the physical act of offering up an animal, but also the spiritual act of surrendering oneself to something greater.

SheepInnocence, meekness, obedience
SacrificeDevotion, gratitude, atonement, surrender

In conclusion, sheep have long been used as a symbol of sacrifice in various cultural and religious traditions. The act of sacrificing a sheep represents not only the physical offering of an animal, but also the spiritual act of surrendering oneself to a higher power. Through this act of sacrifice, one can show devotion, gratitude, atonement, and a willingness to submit to a greater cause.

Sheep and Their Association with Shepherds

Sheep are found in many cultures around the world and have various symbolic meanings. In many instances, they are associated with their human caretakers – the shepherds. Here, we explore the symbolism of sheep in the context of shepherds.

  • Guidance: Sheep are often seen as symbols of guidance, a role that is taken up by the shepherd. The shepherd leads his flock to safety, nourishment, and water. This symbolic association is grounded in the behavior of the sheep, which tend to stay close to the shepherd even when he is not leading them.
  • Protection: Another association of sheep with the shepherd is protection. In the wild, sheep are prey to many animals, including wolves, foxes, and eagles. The shepherd guards his flock from outside threats, using his staff to fight off predators and watching over them with a sharp eye. This symbolic association highlights the need for protection and care in the face of danger.
  • Unity: Sheep are herd animals, sticking together in groups. In this sense, they symbolize unity, and the importance of working together towards a common goal. The shepherd serves as the leader of the flock, ensuring that they stay together and move in the same direction. This symbolic association highlights the importance of collaboration and teamwork.

Furthermore, the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep can be seen as an allegory for the relationship between God and his followers. In Christianity, Jesus is often described as the Good Shepherd who leads his flock to salvation. The Bible also makes frequent references to sheep, depicting them as humble, loyal, and obedient.

Table 1 below provides additional symbolic associations of sheep in the context of shepherds.

Symbolic AssociationDescription
HumilitySheep are often depicted as humble and submissive animals, yielding to the guidance and protection of the shepherd.
PatienceSheep are known for their slow and steady pace, reminding us to take our time and be patient with ourselves and others.
SelflessnessSheep put the needs of the flock before their own, emphasizing the importance of altruism and sacrifice.

Overall, the symbolism of sheep in the context of shepherds emphasizes the importance of guidance, protection, unity, humility, patience, and selflessness.

Sheep as a symbol of patience and gentleness

Sheep are widely acknowledged as a symbol of patience and gentleness. They are considered as one of the most patient and gentle animals on the planet. They have a calm and peaceful demeanor that is often associated with the qualities of patience and gentleness.

  • Sheep are known for their ability to graze patiently for hours without any sign of restlessness. They can consume grass and forage relentlessly while maintaining their calm and gentle demeanor. This quality of sheep is often seen as a symbol of patience and perseverance in the face of adversity.
  • Sheep are also known for their gentle nature. They are non-violent animals that rarely show any aggression. Even when threatened, they are more likely to flee rather than fight back. This gentle nature of sheep is often seen as a symbol of kindness and grace.
  • Furthermore, sheep are highly sociable animals that prefer to stay in groups. They are known to be loyal and affectionate towards their herdmates. This strong sense of community and togetherness is often associated with the qualities of patience and gentleness.

Sheep as a representation of the number 6

In some cultures, sheep are symbolic of the number 6. This is because the number 6 represents harmony, balance, and nurturing. These are qualities that are often attributed to sheep. The number 6 is also associated with family, home, and stability, which are all values that are important to sheep.

SymbolismNumber 6
HarmonySheep are known for their gentle nature and their desire for peace and harmony within their herd
BalanceSheep maintain a steady balance while grazing, which is often associated with the idea of balance and stability.
NurturingSheep take great care of their young and are known for their ability to provide nourishment and comfort.

Overall, sheep are seen as a symbol of patience, gentleness, and harmony in many cultures. Their calm and peaceful nature has made them a beloved animal in many parts of the world.

The Use of Sheep in Literature and Poetry

Sheep have been used as symbols in literature and poetry for centuries, representing various ideas and emotions. One of the most prevalent ideas associated with sheep is that of innocence or purity. Their fluffy white coats and gentle, peaceful nature make them a suitable symbol for this concept.

Another common idea associated with sheep is that of sacrifice. Sheep have long been the sacrificial animal of choice in many cultures, and this symbolism has carried over into literature and poetry. They represent giving oneself up for a greater good or higher purpose.

Furthermore, sheep are often used to represent the common people due to their unassuming nature and tendency to follow the herd. In works of fiction and poetry, they can be used to symbolize the masses or the average person. On the other hand, they can also represent those who are oppressed or powerless, as they are often at the mercy of their shepherds or other powerful figures.

Examples of Sheep Symbolism in Literature and Poetry

  • In William Blake’s poem “The Lamb,” a lamb is used as a symbol for innocence and purity. The lamb is described as being meek and mild, representing a childlike sense of innocence.
  • In George Orwell’s novel “Animal Farm,” the sheep represent the uninformed masses who blindly follow their leaders and are easily manipulated.
  • In the Bible, sheep are often used as a symbol for followers of God. Jesus is referred to as the “Good Shepherd,” who leads his flock (his followers) to safety.

The Significance of the Number Seven

In some works of literature and poetry, the number seven is often associated with sheep symbolism. This is because sheep were often kept in flocks of seven, as it was believed to be a lucky number that would bring prosperity and good fortune.

Furthermore, there are seven deadly sins in many religions and belief systems. Some poems and works of literature use sheep to represent the seven deadly sins, with each sheep representing a specific sin. For example, the sheep may be named after the sins of lust, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth, and pride.

Sheep’s NameSeven Deadly Sins
LustThe desire for physical or emotional pleasure
GreedThe excessive desire for material wealth or gain
EnvyThe desire for what others have or the resentment of their fortune
WrathThe intense anger or hatred towards others
GluttonyThe excessive indulgence of food or drink
SlothThe laziness or lack of motivation to do work or improve oneself
PrideThe excessive sense of self-importance or arrogance

Overall, the use of sheep in literature and poetry allows for the exploration of a range of themes and ideas, from innocence and purity to sacrifice and powerlessness. The number seven holds a particular significance in some works of literature, as it is associated with both luck and the seven deadly sins.

Sheep as a symbol of abundance and prosperity

The sheep has long been associated with abundance and prosperity. Sheep were highly valued in ancient cultures, and owning a large flock was a sign of wealth and success. Today, sheep are still a symbol of prosperity, and are often used in feng shui and other spiritual practices to attract wealth and good fortune.

  • In Chinese tradition, the number 8 is considered lucky because it sounds similar to the word for “wealth” or “prosperity” in Chinese. Therefore, eight sheep together are considered especially auspicious, representing an abundance of wealth and good fortune.
  • Similarly, in many African cultures, owning a large herd of sheep is a sign of wealth and status. Sheep are often used as a form of currency and are traded for other goods and services. The more sheep a person owns, the more prosperous they are seen to be.
  • In Christianity, the lamb symbolizes abundance and is often associated with the concept of sacrifice. The lamb of God is a symbol of sacrifice and abundance, representing the idea that through humility and sacrifice, abundance can be achieved.

In addition to their association with wealth and prosperity, sheep are also seen as symbols of fertility and growth. In many ancient cultures, sheep were sacrificed to the gods in order to ensure a plentiful harvest or successful breeding season.

The following table shows different interpretations of the sheep as a symbol of abundance and prosperity in various cultures:

ChineseEight sheep together represent wealth and good fortune
AfricanOwning a large herd of sheep is a sign of wealth and status
ChristianityThe lamb of God represents abundance and sacrifice

Overall, the sheep has a rich history as a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Whether they are used in spiritual practices or as a form of currency, sheep continue to represent wealth and success in many cultures around the world.

The Dark Side of Sheep Symbolism in Popular Culture

While sheep are often depicted as gentle, innocent creatures in popular culture, there is also a dark side to their symbolism. In fact, in some cases, sheep are used to represent negative characteristics and actions.

The Number 9

One example of this can be seen in the number 9, which is often associated with sheep due to its shape resembling the head of a ram. However, in some cultures, the number 9 is also linked to negative connotations such as aggression, violence, and war. For example, in Chinese culture, the number 9 is seen as unlucky and is often avoided in phone numbers, addresses, and even floor numbers in buildings. This negative association with the number 9 has also been attributed to the ram’s head shape resembling a weapon, and thus, being linked to violent tendencies.

  • However, it’s important to note that not all cultures view the number 9 in a negative light. In some cases, it can be seen as a symbol of completeness or spiritual enlightenment. For example, in Norse mythology, there were nine realms that were all connected and each represented a different aspect of life.
  • Thus, the negative symbolism associated with sheep and the number 9 is not universal and can vary depending on cultural context.
  • It’s also worth noting that this negative symbolism is not limited to sheep alone but can be found in other symbols as well, such as with the goat, which is another animal often associated with aggressive and destructive behavior.
SymbolNegative AssociationPositive Association
SheepAggression, violenceGentleness, innocence
GoatDestructiveness, temptationVitality, independence

Despite these negative associations, it’s important to remember that symbols can have multiple meanings and interpretations depending on their cultural and historical context. While sheep may not always represent innocence and gentleness, they can still be viewed and appreciated for their valuable contributions to society, such as their wool and milk production.

The Connection Between Sheep and Dreams or Visions

For many people, sheep symbolize dreams and visions. These gentle creatures are known for their peaceful and gentle nature, making them the perfect symbol for a calm and serene state of mind. Over the centuries, sheep have appeared in many different cultures and traditions, and they always seem to represent something that is deeply meaningful.

One of the most intriguing things about sheep and their relationship to dreams involves the number 10. If you see ten sheep in your dream, it is said to be a powerful symbol of completion and wholeness.

  • Seeing ten sheep in a dream can represent the end of a journey or the fulfillment of a goal.
  • It might indicate that you have achieved a sense of completeness and that you are ready to move on to the next phase of your life.
  • Alternatively, seeing ten sheep in a dream might represent the ten plagues of Egypt or the ten commandments, giving the symbol a strong religious significance.

To understand the significance of sheep in dreams or visions more fully, it is helpful to look at the larger cultural context. Sheep are an important part of many ancient cultures and religions, including those of ancient Greece, Egypt, and Judaism. For example, the biblical story of the Good Shepherd has long been a popular symbol of compassion, peace, and protection, with Jesus often represented as a gentle shepherd tending his flock.

Ultimately, the meaning behind seeing sheep in a dream or vision will depend on the individual and the context of the dream. However, whether you view sheep as a symbol of peace, trust, and innocence or as a symbol of sacrifice and redemption, there is no denying their power to communicate deep and meaningful messages to those who are receptive to them.

PeaceSheep are known for their gentle and peaceful nature, making them a popular symbol of calm and tranquility.
WholenessSeeing ten sheep in a dream can be a powerful symbol of completion and wholeness, representing the end of a journey or the fulfillment of a goal.
CompassionThe biblical story of the Good Shepherd is a powerful symbol of compassion, peace, and protection, with Jesus often represented as a gentle shepherd tending his flock.

Whatever your interpretation of sheep symbolism might be, there is no doubt that these creatures carry deep and meaningful messages for those who are open to receiving them.

FAQs About What Do Sheep Symbolize

Q: What do sheep symbolize in literature?
A: Sheep often symbolize conformity, meekness, and passivity in literature. They are often used to represent the common people or followers who blindly follow a leader.

Q: What do sheep symbolize in Christianity?
A: In Christianity, sheep symbolize the followers of Christ and the Church. They represent innocence, purity, and obedience.

Q: What do black sheep symbolize?
A: Black sheep often symbolize nonconformity and rebellion. They can also represent being an outcast or the odd one out.

Q: What do white sheep symbolize?
A: White sheep often symbolize purity, innocence, and new beginnings. They can also be associated with being a follower or part of a larger group.

Q: What do sheep symbolize in dreams?
A: Sheep in dreams can represent a need for guidance or a desire to conform. They can also symbolize a subconscious desire for peace and safety.

Q: What do sheep symbolize in Chinese culture?
A: In Chinese culture, sheep are associated with the zodiac sign and represent gentleness, kindness, and compassion.

Q: What do sheep symbolize in Native American culture?
A: In Native American culture, sheep symbolize the importance of community and working together. They also represent endurance and adaptability.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read about what sheep symbolize. They can represent a variety of things depending on the context and culture. Whether you see them as followers or rebels, purity or nonconformity, they are a fascinating symbol with a rich history. Be sure to check back soon for more interesting articles and insights.