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Sheep

We’re working in a number of different ways to try to improve the lives of as many sheep as possible.


The behaviour of sheep:

Feeding

Sheep are grazing animals that eat grasses and other low-growing vegetation and ruminate (chew the cud). They spend most of the day alternating between periods of grazing and resting/ruminating, and sleep for only around 4 hours per day.


Social

Sheep are highly social animals - they always like to be around other sheep they are familiar with and find isolation from their flock stressful. They form strong social hierarchies (‘pecking orders’) within their flocks, and sometimes show aggression (butting) to maintain these.


Avoiding predators

Sheep flock closely together whenever they feel threatened, and try to maintain a 'flight distance' between themselves and a potential threat. They have good eyesight, with a wide field of vision, and accurate hearing with which to spot any possible threats.


Because they are prey animals they have evolved not to show easily recognisable signs of suffering. This inexpressive nature means that people often don’t spot the subtle changes in behaviour that may indicate sheep are in pain or distress.


Sheep intelligence

Scientific evidence indicates that sheep can form complex social relationships within their flocks and have extremely good learning abilities and memories. In one study sheep were able to remember pictures of the faces of at least 50 other sheep over a period of several years.


Adaptations to cope with the weather

Sheep’s wool contains a waxy substance called lanolin, which helps sheep to stay dry during wet weather. Some breeds are known for their ‘hardiness’ and ability to cope with bad weather, though this is not true of all breeds/ages, and sheep often choose to seek out shelter. Sheep have a similar tolerance to warm weather as humans do, and they pant when heat stressed.


If you are concerned about the welfare of sheep then find out how you can help.