|"Theoretical speculation is futile unless it is supported by quantitative evidence."|
The Lamb of Tartary, also known as The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, The Scythian Lamb, and The Borometz, Borametz, Barametz, or Barometz (Agnus scythicus or Planta tartarica barometz) is a legendary cryptid of Central Asia. It was believed to grow sheep in the same manner that a tree grows fruit, which were connected to the plant by an umbilical cord.
In his book, The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary (1887), Henry Lee describes the legendary lamb as to be both a true animal and a living plant. However, he states that some writers believed the lamb to be the fruit of the plant, sprouting forward from melon-like seeds. Others, however, believed the lamb to be a living member of the plant that would perish if separated from it. The Vegetable Lamb was believed to have blood, bones, and flesh like that of a normal lamb. However, later in the 16th century, the Lamb of Tartary was believed to have authentic blood, bones, but not true flesh.
It was connected to the earth by a stem, similar to an umbilical cord, that propped the lamb up above ground. The stem could flex downward, allowing the lamb to feed on the grass and plants surrounding it. Once the plants within reach were eaten, the lamb died. Then, after expiring, the lamb became edible and its blood supposedly tasted sweet like honey. Its wool was said to be used by the native people of its homeland to make head coverings and other articles of clothing. The only carnivorous animals attracted to the lamb-plant (other than humans) were wolves.
A similar creature appears in early Jewish folklore tales called the Yeduah, it appeared to be a lamb but it sprouted from a stem rising from the earth. The only way to kill the strange creature was to sever the connection between lamb and stem. Thereafter, the bones of the Yeduah could be used during prophetic ceremonies. In some versions of the tale, the lamb-plant is highly aggressive and snatches up any poor soul within reach. These tales of Jewish folklore could be the origin of the Lamb of Tartary.
It is possible that the Lamb of Tartary could be based on Cibotium barometz, a plant whose woolly rhizome, once its leaves are removed and it is turned upside down, resembles a lamb that is attached to the plant.
The possible explanation for this cryptid is that when Lee wrote his book, they only knew of wool and not cotton. Wool, they reasoned, must come from sheep. So it is possible that this cryptid is just a fanciful rendition of a cotton plant used to explain the production of cotton in the Middle ages. It may be eaten by herbivores because it is classified as a plant. Some believe it should be put with euglena in a new kingdom.
In Popular Media
- The pokémon Whimsicott is based on the Lamb of Tartary
- In the manga Monsters Musume, Cott and Ton are portayed as anthropormorphized Barometz