Most of us, when we think of sheep, we imagine a gentle and docile animal happily grazing on a spring meadow. But, like with any animal species, sheep have their own unique set of behaviors and instincts, and not all of them are always docile. If you’re a farmer, or just a lucky individual who happened to encounter them in their habitat or some other setting, it’s important to understand the nature of sheep and how to handle them. So, let’s tackle the basic question, are sheep aggressive, and then some other topics, like the cause for potential aggression and how to safely deal with our woolly critters?
Sheep are generally not considered aggressive animals by nature. Sheep are often described as herbivores with peaceful and quite passive behavior. There are always exceptions to the rule. Any animal, when stressed, sick, or provoked can show some aggressive demeanor. Sheep usually won’t show aggression, even if provoked, and if they do show it, it’ll always be for their own defense and self-preservation and not intentionally harmful.
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Are sheep friendly to people?
My sheep are not friendly to people, but that’s because they’re mostly not penned and are for much of the year allowed to roam the rocky countryside. They approach only me and some other family members. Otherwise, they keep away from people.
But, not all sheep are like that. They are usually quite friendly animals, especially if their owner takes good care of them and if they have regular human interaction. Of course, there will be differences among each individual sheep. The ones that I raised on bottled milk are much friendlier than the rest of the herd. If you want your sheep to be friendly with people, start with gentle handling and consistent care. It’ll work out in the end.
Do sheep attack dogs?
Sheep could attack a dog, but only if they perceive it as a threat. But, that will only happen if they get approached by an untrained and unsupervised dog. Carefully manage their encounters at first if you’re starting to include a sheepdog within your herd.
Can sheep become aggressive?
As I noted before, sheep are not usually aggressive, but things can happen and change their attitude:
- If sheep feel threatened or stressed, they might become aggressive. So, no sudden and threatening approach towards your herd.
- Ewes might become aggressive if they get a sense that their lambs might be in some sort of danger.
- Rams can get aggressive during breeding season when they compete for territory and ewes on it.
Are only rams aggressive?
As you were reading through this post, you’ve most likely noticed that I haven’t singled out rams, I’ve always used the term sheep, as both rams and ewes can become aggressive. But, like with almost any animal, the male part of the duo is bound to be more aggressive, and sheep are no exception. As listed above, rams can become aggressive, especially during breeding season, so you should be extra cautious during that time. If you see a ram bobbing his head or stomping, you could be facing an aggressive ram. In case of a ram becoming aggressive, then you should remove yourself from the area immediately. Call a more experienced farmer to help you calm him down, or even decide on a more permanent solution if the ram’s aggressiveness just keeps getting worse.
Why do sheep stare at you?
When sheep stare at you, and they most certainly will if you encounter them, it will most likely be out of curiosity. Sheep are quite smart animals, contrary to popular opinion that they’re not. I think you’d be surprised at how smart they actually are. I’ve written in detail about their smarts in the following post. And if sheep are not staring out of curiosity, then they most certainly are alert and vigilant around you. That still doesn’t mean that they could become aggressive, just that they’re trying to assess if you’re a potential threat.
What to do if a sheep runs at you?
If a sheep does become aggressive and even starts to run towards you, the most important thing to remember is to remain calm. Like with most animals, they might just be assessing you. So, remain calm and stand your ground. No sudden movements and slowly back away, while looking at the sheep. Most of the time they’ll stop their charge. If not, then good luck. In my area, there are plenty of stones all around, so I have an additional tool to stop them in their tracks and frighten them a little bit, so they stop running toward me.
How to survive a dangerous sheep?
To recap once again. If a sheep does charge you, remain composed and calm, don’t make sudden movements. Back away slowly and give the sheep some space. Go away from the sheep, try to put a barrier between you two. If you have one particularly aggressive ram and there is no stopping him, then feel free to use some protective gear around the ram, like a sturdy jacket or gloves. Ram’s headbutt is nothing to joke about.
Tips and tricks to make your sheep docile
Handle your sheep well and everything will be all right. Let them familiarize themselves with other people besides you. Maybe give them some treats (but not to rams, they have to be handled differently), to encourage them to be more friendly. If you want to know what might be the best treats for your sheep, then check the following list of sheep-appropriate feeds in this post.
Don’t forget to take good care of them, like cleaning their water sources or checking their health regularly. Also, keep their environment quiet, calm, and free from stress.
How to feel safer around sheep?
Some of you might still be wary of sheep. Hopefully, this post managed to make you feel more safe around them. Except in certain instances, they’re not dangerous to be around. As you educate yourself more and more about sheep, the less frightening they’ll seem. Still, always keep calm and practice safety precautions around your flock, especially around young rams during breeding season.
Sheep are generally not aggressive animals. Still, it’s good to familiarize yourself with their behavior and how to handle your sheep safely. They’re great animals to keep on your farm. For persistent readers, I found a great and quite funny compilation of sheep headbutting people, so feel free to check it out: