If you’ve ever been on a cross country road trip, or visited a farm or petting zoo, you’ve most likely seen a flock of sheep before. But have you ever paid attention to how a flock moves? Sheep are natural followers, and like many other species in the animal kingdom, where on goes, the rest follows. Continue reading to learn more about sheep flock behavior. What you discover might surprise you!
A Natural Instinct
Sheep are both followers and leaders when in a group, and it is something you can witness for yourself simply by observing a flock on a pasture of land. They are born with a natural instinct to follow one another. This behavior results from an instinct that has been hard-wired into sheep DNA since the beginning of their evolution. While in a flock, if one sheep begins to walk in another direction, the rest of the flock will follow, even if the point of destination is disadvantageous or dangerous. Whether to the slaughter house or off of a cliff, sheep will follow each other every time.
Why Do They Follow Each Other?
This natural instinct is might be due to several reasons. Sheep are both gregarious and social animals, and getting separated from the group will cause them extreme distress. They prefer to remain in groups for both safety and companionship. While grazing, sheep most comfortable when in a group of at least four or five. Not only does this help protect them from predators, it gives them a sense of ease when they can have visual contact with the rest of the flock.
Many other animals exhibit this same behavior. For instance, many fish and bird species also have an internal instinct to swarm in the same directions. In sheep, however, it is something instinctual in all species, and the most evident in wool-producing sheep.
Leadersheep are a very unique and highly intelligent genus of sheep in Iceland that are born with the naturally ability to lead a flock home to safety during dangerous or inclement conditions. It is believed that they can sense danger, and have the instinct to protect a flock by directing them home. There have been many documented cases throughout history of leadersheep saving flocks in times of harsh blizzards and heavy storms.