Sheep are prey animals and in the wild it is essential for them to remain together for protection. Sheep will almost always be found grazing together or within eyesight of one another. A single sheep is a lonely and unhappy sheep. They must have companions, preferably other sheep, but some alternate species of livestock can be substituted as well. Goats can make great companions for sheep, as can other “herd protecting” animals such as llamas or alpacas.
Sheep will also follow one another without hesitation. When one sheep starts walking off, usually the rest will follow. Sheep will often band together when there is danger. Back in September we had a sudden hailstorm. When I looked outside to find the sheep, I found them huddled together with their heads bowed and touching. They mimicked each other’s behavior and were able to protect their heads from the hail.
Unfortunately one of our sheep, an ewe named Clover, passed away a few months ago. We aren’t sure the reason for her passing, and we hadn’t noticed any signs of illness previously. I immediately knew something was wrong when I came home from work and she was not grazing with the other sheep. The four sheep were inseparable and it was the first time I had not seen them all together. We found her lying under our fig tree where the sheep often liked to rest and get out of the sun. Several hours after Clover was buried, I looked out in the backyard and witnessed all three of our remaining sheep laying in a circle around her grave. Some studies have reported that sheep feel emotions similar to humans. After witnessing this behavior, I believe that our sheep were grieving Clover and felt her loss. Sheep are amazing creatures!