Saturday, January 5, 2013

Smart Sheep

I bought a friend a book for her birthday titled, Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland.   It is about animals that bond  with animals very unlike themselves.

One example is a bond between an elephant and a sheep.  The 6 month old elephant lost his mother when she fell over a cliff at a South African nature reserve.  The people brought in a sheep for the baby elephant to bond with because it had worked well previously with a baby hippopotamus.

The story mentions how smart sheep are.  Their intelligence falls just below that of pigs it says.  Sheep can apparently "distinguish between different emotions based on facial expressions and will react emotionally to familiar faces of various species"

A few days ago, one of my young friends from across the pasture came over for a few hours.  When we let the sheep out to come up by the house to graze, they were very nervous around my five year old friend.  I guess he didn't have the right expression on his face.  So I decided to start teaching human to sheep etiquette.  Number 1, I told him, was "Don't make eye contact".  Then we talked about "flight zones" and such.  It was fun to watch him walk wide around the sheep looking down at the ground.  Then he hid in the garage/barn while I put the sheep back in the barnyard and he is learning to open and close gates.  It was a great afternoon.

Today, another neighbor brought a New Years gift of apple butter and beets.  The sheep were up by the house again and when he drove up the sheep ran around the house.  He told me he didn't realize sheep were so nervous.  They are just cautious with new adventures.  That's O.K.

This neighbor told me one time he took a vacation out to see the grand canyon and someone was taking care of his cattle.  Apparently, he shouted at the cows to try to get them to go where he wanted them and they got upset.  My neighbor said when he got home, it took him a month and a half to get the cows settled down again.  I wonder where cows are on that list.

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing how animals react to their "people". Where I work we breed thousands of mice for experiments and the mice take on the personalities of their caretakers. If the caretaker is a nervous person, the mice are all nervous. If the caretaker is laid back and gentle, the mice are much less stressed. We actually spend time training caretakers on how to be calmer so the mice will be calmer.