An experimental study of the physical properties of black, kerogen-rich shales, also including maturation analysis, scanning electron microscope (SEM) observations, and physical modeling, revealed fairly peculiar petrophysical parameters. Specifically, these rocks have very low porosity and density, but most importantly, both P and S ultrasonic velocities normal to bedding are extremely low, whereas they are much higher parallel to bedding, giving rise to a strong anisotropy even at high confining pressures. We found that these parameters primarily reflect kerogen content, microstructure, and maturation level of these rocks. We found also that microcracks inferred from ultrasonic velocity measurements occur only in mature shales. These microcracks are parallel to the bedding plane and further enhance strong intrinsic anisotropy, notably at low effective pressure. Our results show, that on a small scale, kerogen-rich shales are transversely isotropic rocks and can be effectively modeled using the thin-layer composite concept modified to account for the specific distribution of organic matter in the rock fabric.