Do you ever wonder if your animals love you as much as you love them?
Domesticated animals have all different ways of showing happiness and affection.
Dogs wag their tails and give puppy kisses, cats purr, and small pets seek out your touch.
But what about livestock?
Sheep are prey animals and run when they think they’re in danger.
But they’re just as capable of demonstrating how safe they feel!
Keep reading to discover some surprising ways your sheep show you love.
They Stop Running from You
If you haven’t raised your sheep from babies, the odds are good they’ve had to go through an adjustment period.
It takes time for them to adjust to new humans, especially because their basic instincts tell them to run from potential predators.
The same flight response is seen in goats.
Your sheep will likely keep their distance until they feel safe with you.
They may even bolt when you get close to them.
Again, it’s an instinctive behavior.
When your animal’s instincts stop telling them to run from you, they are no longer scared of you.
Congratulations on being one step closer to befriending your livestock!
They Appear Relaxed Around You
Fear and joy expressions in humans are observable in our faces.
But for sheep, watch their ears instead!
If those cute little ears are relaxed and back, your sheep are likely feeling safe and calm.
The opposite (forward and perked up ears) signifies your animal is stimulated and possibly afraid.
A relaxed sheep knows you’re a safe person.
The Sheep Let You Touch and Pet Them
If you’re excited for the day your animals let you give them pats, this one is for you!
Once your animals feel safer around you, they’ll stop running when you reach out to pet them.
Keep in mind: some sheep simply don’t like being pet.
This is more likely to be true of your sheep if they weren’t frequently in contact with people when they were a lamb.
Don’t force contact before your pet is ready.
Sneaking up on your lamb to pet them when they don’t notice is likely to startle them and undo the work you’ve done to make them feel safe.
When they’re comfortable, they’ll allow you to touch them.
This is a sure sign they’re beginning to like you.
Sheep Approach You
The precise opposite of running away, a comfortable lamb or adult will walk right up to you.
It would go entirely against their instincts to approach a predator, which is a definite sign of affection.
This is a tamer version of how a dog might greet their human friend by running up to them when they walk through the door.
A sheep willing to walk over to you feels safe in your presence.
They Initiate Contact
Taking it one step further, a sheep who likes you may walk right up and rub against you.
They may use you as a scratching post or use physical contact to ask for attention.
Again, not all sheep like being touched and pet.
But certain sheep who have experience spending time around people are more likely to accept physical contact.
For example, if a lamb gets in contact with a human through bottle feeding, they adjust quickly to human touch.
This makes them more likely to allow you to pet them.
But it also makes them more likely to seek out connections with humans.
If you raise a little lamb as the family pet, they’ll probably brush right up against you to show you affection.
They Follow You Around
Just as the old nursery rhyme goes, a little lamb will follow you everywhere you go if they love you.
This isn’t necessarily a very common sign of affection in sheep, but it indicates how much they like you.
It’s true; sheep are social creatures.
But this particular gregarious instinct is usually reserved for other sheep.
It’s not uncommon for animals to follow each other around. It’s instinctual and adds to their feeling of safety.
But for humans… Well, you must be like family for your little lamb to follow you around the barn.
Sheep Will Play with You
Another social behavior usually reserved for other sheep is playing!
Not only is this adorable, but it’s a distinct sign of affection.
They play by running, jumping, and nuzzling.
You’ve probably noticed them doing this amongst themselves from time to time.
But once they’re comfortable around people, they’re more likely to make you their playmate too.
Bottle-fed lambs and other animals accustomed to being around people are, once again, the most apt to want to play with you.
Just like goats, sheep are sometimes goofy little animals.
They like to have fun, and they do this by exploring and playing.
When they start jumping around you, don’t be alarmed.
They’re just inviting you to join their game!
Roughhousing With You
This one is similar to playing.
But it’s a little different because it’s more common among rams.
Rams, from a young age, show affection and play with their horns.
They might butt gently at you or nuzzle your hand or leg with their head.
If you keep multiple males, you’ve probably seen them roughhouse with each other.
They can’t play in exactly the same way as people.
But, if they like you well enough, they will include you however they can.
Be careful with this particular behavior.
A rougher approach towards humans, especially children, is sometimes dangerous.
Encouraging butting behaviors in a lamb cause problems once they grow bigger and still want to roughhouse.
They Call to Each Other
If you’re interested, we have one more way sheep show affection amongst themselves.
Mothers call to their offspring frequently.
Sometimes it’s to maintain connection when they’re physically apart, a behavior we also see in cattle.
Other times, the call is used to warn their offspring of potential danger.
Either way, this kind of connection is only used among family packs.
This is not a way sheep show affection to humans.
We wouldn’t understand if they did!
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