Have you ever gone to a party where you only knew the two people you came with?
Sheep follow each other around a lot like you would follow your friends in a strange environment.
Sheep are herd animals with a gregarious instinct, so they stick together in a pack. This makes it easier for them to protect themselves from predators, find food together, and always have a friend and playmate nearby.
There are several reasons sheep tend to tag along behind one another.
Follow along in this article to learn why they behave this way and how to make sure your animals are feeling safe on your farm.
Reasons Sheep Band Together
First and foremost, the key to understanding sheep behavior is remembering they are prey animals.
A single sheep will obey their instinct to flee from potential danger and fight only if there’s no way to escape.
The instincts of sheep go a little further, though, when looking at a group of them.
You might notice your whole herd flocking to one side of the barn when a strange person comes in to see them.
Ewes with lambs need to protect their young, and lambs tend to follow bigger animals who can protect them.
All around, sheep find safety in numbers.
For the same reason, they might follow around a familiar person when feeling vulnerable.
They know predators will have a harder time getting to them when they are defended by themselves and others.
Sheep are also social animals!
If you’ve never seen the adorable scene of two lambs nudging each other and jumping around, you’re missing out.
Sheep love to play together, which is one more reason they tend to stay close to one another.
Growing up, our sheep and goats used to get together and nip at low-hanging apples from fruit trees.
Further Reading: Do sheep eat fruit trees?
They foraged together and were almost always found in a group.
Social behavior by lambs usually looks more like jumping, running, and friendly headbutting.
Meanwhile, when your flock of sheep is older, they are more likely to graze in a group and forage together.
In some ways, this is another manifestation of their defensive instincts.
Some of the social behavior of sheep optimizes the awareness your animals have of potential predators.
For example, sheep have some of the most impressive peripheral vision in the animal world.
However, they have a blind spot directly behind them when they’re grazing.
By following one another around the barn and pasture, your animals ensure they don’t suffer a surprise attack.
Affectionate sheep will want to be close to one another as well.
In the same way, if your sheep rub against you or approach you once they’re familiar with you, this is a good thing!
They do the same to each other as a way of showing affection!
Sheep and goats love to forage for food, especially when a range of plant life is available.
When you give them pasture space to roam in, you might be surprised to see how much they eat aside from grass and weeds!
If things look a bit scarce, sheep may begin to follow each other to find a better food supply.
This way, what one sheep finds, the whole herd benefits from.
Are Your Sheep Frightened?
Just because sheep band together when they’re scared doesn’t mean your sheep are afraid of you or something else on your farm.
But here’s how to know if they are feeling frightened:
- Their eyes are wide open, and their ears are perked
- They act skittish
- They prepare to flee or fight
If your sheep truly feel threatened, it will be visible in their bodies.
A relaxed sheep will have laid-back ears and half-closed eyes. Meanwhile, a scared one will have their ears perked up and their eyes wide open, ready to spot signs of imminent danger.
They’re also likely to be jumpy and skittish.
For example, they might jump or dart away at sudden sounds or movements.
These are sure signs they’re on edge.
Fight or Flight
Finally, a scared sheep will follow more of their primal instincts.
If they think you’re a threat, or if they believe something or someone nearby poses a threat to them or their young, your sheep will do more than just herd together.
They will first look for an escape route, possibly by running to one side of the barn, pasturing in a group, or even attempting to get past the fencing you use.
Taking on a fighting stance is their next step when they can’t get away safely.
You might see one or more of your sheep rearing back to headbutt you or another animal they perceive as dangerous.
There are plenty of reasons your sheep might follow each other.
It doesn’t mean they’re scared of you or your other animals!
However, you know your herd best.
If it’s unusual for a pair of your sheep to stick together, or if you notice any other signs something is amiss, check out their environment to ensure they’re safe.
What To Do If Your Sheep Are Scared of You
Obviously, we don’t want our animals to be afraid of us!
But it’s almost inevitable when it comes to prey animals like sheep.
When you raise your animal from a lamb, it’s more likely they will feel safe around you from the get-go.
However, if you buy mature sheep from another farmer, they take varying periods to adjust to the new environment and you.
Be patient with them.
Don’t force touch or closeness too soon except as necessary to take care of them.
If your sheep prefers to follow other sheep in your herd around, this is normal!
They will get used to having you around as time passes.
They may even grow to like you enough to follow you around instead of their herd!
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