Sheep are great animals, and you can keep them as a pet or raise them on the farm as part of a flock or maintain your property, as they love to eat shrubbery and other plants that most people consider invasive. However, since many people have never owned sheep, it can be challenging to get good information about them, and there are some myths and misconceptions that might make some people hesitate to make a purchase. Keep reading while we look at these myths and misconceptions to help you be better informed.

sheep divider 2 The 4 Sheep Myths and Misconceptions

1. Many Sheep Will Flock

Many people believe that all you need is several sheep, and they will automatically flock and move as one unit. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While most sheep have an instinct to flock as a defense against predators, it can be stronger in some than others. Fine wool breeds like the American Cormo, Debouillet,  Rambouillet, and Marino have the strongest. They will usually herd without much effort as long as five or six sheep can maintain constant eye contact.  Icelandic sheep, on the other hand, tend to spread out a little more and may not herd the way you expect them to, and there are always stragglers that fall behind or wander off, which is why many owners use a herding dog or other method to keep the sheep together.

Hampshire Sheep grazing
Image Credit: Leandro Redmerski, Shutterstock

2. Sheep Are Stupid

We’re not sure where the misconception that sheep are stupid began. Maybe it’s because the sheep follow each other so closely when moving in a herd and don’t seem to have a mind of their own. However, it turns out sheep are quite intelligent. Sheep have an excellent memory and learning ability. They can learn new tasks quickly. They can learn their way through a complex maze and remember how to do it for at least 22 weeks. One study showed that they could recognize up to 50 other sheep and have complex emotions. Some experts also suggest that sheep can pass more complex psychological tests than a monkey.

3. Raw Fleece Contains Sheep Sweat

Another strange misconception about sheep is that if you raise them for their wool, it will have sheep sweat on it. This misconception likely comes from people falsely believing that sheep sweat like a human does, which might contaminate the wool. However, sheep don’t sweat as we do. They only have a few sweat glands, which you can find in the corner of each eye, one on each side of the udder, and one between each of their cloven hooves, so there is very little risk that sweat will wind up on the fleece and there is no cause for concern.

4. Black Sheep Are Lucky or Unlucky

Another common misconception about sheep is that they are lucky or unlucky. For instance, British folklore says that black sheep are lucky will European folklore says the opposite. While most owners will tell you that they feel lucky because they own such a wonderful animal, there is no real evidence that suggests sheep of any color have an impact on your luck and certainly no official studies.

herdwick sheep
Image Credit: Pixabay

What Do Sheep Eat?

Sheep enjoy eating grass and many other types of food. They like large-leafed plants and will usually chew on bushes and other brush-type foliage. We often find these plants around our home and call them weeds, so allowing these animals to forage for food on your property every few weeks is a great way to improve your yard’s overall appearance while minimizing the workload.

Sheep spend most of their time grazing, and they love to eat vegetables, like corn, apples, cabbage, beans, kale, bananas, broccoli, and more. They will also eat hay, and haylage, a type of hay that contains a mixture of crops to improve the sheep’s health. You will usually need to provide them with supplements of vitamin E and calcium.

Other Interesting Sheep Facts

  • The female sheep is a ewe, while males are rams.
  • Newborn sheep can walk almost immediately
  • Sheep have a rectangular pupil, which gives them a wider field of vision.
  • Sheep have an excellent sense of smell with scent glands in front of their eyes and on their feet.
  • There are more than 1,000 breeds of sheep.
  • Though rare, some breeds, like the Hebridean and Navajo-Churro, can grow up to six horns.
  • The Racka sheep is the only breed where both males and females grow long spiral horns.
  • Sheep have personalities and can be pessimistic or optimistic.
  • Sheep have a groove in their upper lip that divides it in half and helps them be choosy when selecting plants to eat.
  • Cheap form strong bonds with each other and can remember friends for two years or more.
  • Sheep do not have upper front teeth.

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sheep divider 2 Summary

The biggest misconception about these ancient animals is that they are not intelligent when studies show the opposite is true. These animals are smart enough to receive so special care when setting up their habitat and environment. Since they are emotional and form strong bonds with each other, it’s important to keep this in mind when buying or selling them, and we recommend purchasing more than one because these are highly social animals they will prefer to live with a partner.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide and found the answers you need. If we have helped clear up your understanding, please share these four biggest sheep myths and misconceptions on Facebook and Twitter.

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Featured Image Credit: Coatesy, Shutterstock