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Thieves and Sheep

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Thieves and Sheep is an old trick, most often done today with coins, in which the performer tells a story about two thieves and five sheep, and shows seven small objects to represent them. He says his hands will represent two barns, and then picks up the objects alternately with both hands, separating the two "thieves." But somehow, the thieves repeatedly end up in one "barn," and the "sheep" end up in the other. Probably the most widely-known version is that of Milton Kort and Stewart James in J. B. Bobo's Modern Coin Magic.

The trick has also been called "Robbers and Sheep," "Sheep and Wolves," "Cops and Robbers," "Fox and Geese," "Tramps and Geese," "Poachers and Rabbits," and several other names. It was originally done with paper pellets. Later, the props were enlarged, using crumpled paper balls, and two hats to represent the barns. Other versions use colored wooden blocks, matches, playing cards, and many other small (and not-so-small) objects.

Stewart Judah had a popular version that was released in the early 1950s as Alibi Twins, using five rubber pieces of chocolate candy, and two little boy statuettes.


  • Les Cinq voleurs: Ducoeurjoly, Trois heures d'amusement (1801, p. 83, uses seven chips)
  • Sheep and Thieves: "Hen" Fetsch: "Hen" Fetsch's Secret (1952).
  • Thieves and Sheep (Lillian Bobo): J. B. Bobo, Modern Coin Magic (1952, p. 249).
  • Thieves and Sheep: Walter B. Gibson, The Complete Illustrated Book of Card Magic (1969, p. 8).
  • Thieves and Sheep (With Prepared Cards): Walter B. Gibson, The Complete Illustrated Book of Card Magic (1969, pp. 450-451).
  • Silver Flight (Frank Starinieri): The Linking Ring, Vol. 51 No. 7 (July 1971, pp. 80-81).
  • Thieves and Rabbits (Pierre Fontaine): M-U-M, Vol. 72 No. 11 (April 1983, pp. 28-29).
  • Tenkai Thieves and Sheep (David Calhoun): The Linking Ring, Vol. 64 No. 11 (November 1984, pp. 73-74).
  • Thieves Pitchin' Sheep (Mike Gallo): Richard Kaufman, Lou Gallo: The Underground Man (1996, pp. 22-24).