Sheep... Not as Baarmy as They Seem!
To put it bluntly, they are far from stupid.
I was under the impression for a long time that sheep were stupid. I had been brought up in an environment where everyone was of the same opinion. That sheep were there for a purpose, but the only purpose they had in life was to die. That they had no personality and were all the same. How wrong people were! When I finally was old enough to form my own opinion I spent some time with some Shetland sheep that belonged to a family friend. So the obsession began.
I had never met such tough little animals.
They could judge time as well as any dairy cow. And were stood waiting every day to be fed.
They could identify people just by listening to the way they walked.
They overthrew my entire opinion of sheep.
Naturally, I had to have one.... and I had to explore further.
So I acquired a lamb, and started training.
I am a training freak.
I love training animals, seeing what works and what doesn't.
So when I got my lamb, the first thing I did was halter break him. I did this using the same principles that I would use to train the horses. It worked. I asked him questions and he had to figure the answers out. It proved to me again that the little monsters can actually think about problems.
So after about a week when I could lead him around comfortably, we started walking around the village. Again in the same way that I would expose a horse to traffic, I built up his tolerance to it until he no longer reacted.
I had proved that he could be trained in the way that horses could be trained for basic handling, but being me I wanted to know more. So I turned to Clicker training, I wanted to see if he could learn a trick, and then remember it.
again I set to work, teaching him to stand on his hind legs for food, he got the hang of this pretty quickly so I added a cue. To this day, at 11 years old, if I tell him to get up he stands on his hind legs for a treat.
I proved that not only do they learn, these 'soulless and dull' animals can also retain information and use it when they need it.
Easter, The vocal orphan!
The Current Flock
Currently, I have my original boy, his buddy that I took in a year later. I have then added in over the last two years and extra 4 young ewes. All six of them know when I am coming across the yard.
They can't see me until I get to their gate, yet they only call when they hear my footsteps. Even the landlord cannot get over how they can tell. they are ridiculously switched on and loyal.
My old boy will protect me from anyone that he doesn't know. and the new girls won't let anyone else close to them.
If you ask me that comes from highly intelligent animals.
They certainly have personality and each one of my small group is a total individual that has their own character, their own attitude and their own way to deal with things.
For example, Kerry is highly strung and loves to run and leap and be a fool.
Flop (don't ask, she has always been floppy), on the other hand, has always been incredibly laid back and loves her cuddles.
Easter is vocal and will bleat at me continuously whereas Spot is quite happy to play and observe silently, rarely making a sound.
The Original Old boy!
In summary, it is my opinion that sheep are far from stupid, insane, dull or only looking to die.
I believe they are hilariously entertaining, brilliantly talented and have personalities that I would love to have in a lot of people that I know.
Are they barmy? No
Reactive yes but certainly not stupid.
Next time you get the chance to meet a sheep, especially a tame one that is able to be relaxed around you. Give them a chance. You might just be surprised at how lovable these farm animals can be.
They transformed by view of them, and I would like to bet that they could do the same to you too!
© 2017 Holly Probert