Best Lessons of Leadersheep.
Did you know that in a flock of sheep it is the female who usually leads? The ram will try to fight and dominate with his horns, but it is the ewe who will be the recognised leader. Yes, go girls!
These woolly animals have a bad rep for being mindless followers, even copying when their leader plummets down a cliff edge! But evidence shows that they are much smarter than we give them credit for, they can recognise our faces and have been known to respond to their name when called. Farmers in West Yorkshire have also reported flocks of sheep with apparent problem-solving skills after the animals found they could overcome cattle grids by rolling on their backs.
There is a breed of sheep in Iceland originally brought by the Vikings 1200 years ago, who grazed season to season for centuries on a remote island south of the Arctic Circle. During their hardship the farmers noticed that some of the sheep had developed some outstanding abilities to help them manage the flock. This unique, small population of sheep were later known as ‘Leadersheep’.
“Leadersheep are graceful and prominent in the flock, with alertness in the eyes, normally going first out of the sheep-house, looking around in all directions, watching if there are any dangers in sight and then walking in front of the flock.” Olafur R. Dyrmundsson
It seems it’s not just European Sheep that are proving to be clever clogs. Sheep! Magazine published a piece called “Sheep Smarts Proven” in 2005 about 60 merino sheep in Australia who we were timed finding their way out of a maze. Researcher Caroline Lee confirmed that not only did they manage to navigate the maze, but they got better each time they did it.
Caroline commented: “We measured them six weeks later and found that they had retained their memory and were at a similar level to the previous test”.
The results suggest that sheep have relatively advanced learning capabilities, are adaptable, can map out their surroundings mentally and may even be able to plan ahead.
These common farmyard animals are on to something, don’t you think? The flock work together to create a successful outcome, taking cues from a strong but calm member of the group. The leader of the flock shows consistency and reliability, encouraging the rest of the flock to stick together for protection.
This ultimately leads to future development of their own kind.
During lockdown our MD, Martin Smith has been spending a lot of time with the Force Four Flock and has noticed how clever they really are (especially Hebridean’s). The mother of the pack recognises him and has learnt to be the interpreter between the flock and the human. She will lead them to Martin if he has food, or if his intention is to use our trusty sheepdog, Tess, to move them to a different paddock, she will sense the danger and move the flock herself to avoid the confrontation. Great leadership qualities in a woolly coat.
Does your flock need some leadership guidance to outperform the competition?
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