No Baaaaad Behavior Here

"People like sheep tend to follow a leaderoccasionally in the right direction." --Alexander Chase

     The most prominent behavior of domestic sheep is their tendency to flock together.  Animals that flock or herd together are called gregarious. Because sheep naturally group together, humans are able to easily round them up and keep them penned. This, along with the fact that sheep are docile creatures, explains why sheep were of the first animals to be domesticated around 11,000 years ago. It is so natural for sheep to be in groups that if one is separated from the group, it will experience a substantial amount of stress. A separated sheep shows this stress by pawing at the ground and calling out.

Flock of Sheep--Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

     Sheep have a defined home range. A home range is the expanse of land in which a flock of sheep will move to and from. Although sheep don’t defend their home ranges like dogs and cats do, it is still their core area of movement and living. While moving through their home range, sheep are lead by a dominant leader.

Butting Sheep--Courtesy of Jim Champion

     Sheep herds establish a social system that revolves around the dominant leader. Many rams establish dominance over one another through head butting. Head butting is not a form of self defense for sheep but rather a way for them to establish social ranking. It is also a way for rams to gain more ground for breeding privileges. Most head butting can be observed prior to when ewes are most fertile.

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