I certainly did not set up this blog to write about sheep behavior, but I cannot help making observations—and taking note of those observations.
For example, this morning….
The sheep, a flock now of about 20 after six new lambs were born over the New Year’s weekend, have three fields in which to graze. Gates control access to each field. This allows Mr. H (see Mother Nature and the Maternal Instinct) to mow a field while keeping the sheep out. It also allows him to separate the rams from the ewes when necessary. Right now, the sheep have the run of all three fields—all of the gates are open. The third field is actually the yard and grazing area around the barn. Access to this area is through a gate at the back edge of the property.
Mr. H. arrived about 7:30 this morning. Immediately, the sheep, as is their custom, set off at a trot to the back corner of the field, through the gate and back up the other side of the fence to the barn. Apparently Mr. H. supplements their grazing with something they really like.
As I was watching this gentle stampede, one eager mother (we’ll call her “Mom”) turned the corner through the gate well ahead of her lamb (“Junior”). Junior saw her on the other side of the fence and tried to go directly to her, but, of course could not.
Mom saw him, stopped to wait for him. But Junior does not yet understand paths and gates.
Mom was clearly agitated. She wanted to go on to the barn, but Junior just would not go down to the gate. Mom would turn and look toward the gate as if trying to tell Junior where to go. Junior apparently does not read Mom’s body language and simply jumps up and down on the other side of the fence in a panic. Finally, after three or four minutes, in a human-like act of parental exasperation, Mom walked back down to the gate, stuck her head through, and looked directly at Junior. He ran to her, through the gate, and they went happily on their way to the barn.
Junior is fortunate that the maternal instinct is so strong.
I guess you would call Mr. H. a shepherd. These are his sheep and he tends them daily. I am sure he knows each one individually and would notice if something was amiss with any individual.
So, I think we can safely say he is a conscientious shepherd.
But I have made one other observation. At the end of the summer, there were 17 sheep in his flock. Several days later, there were only 14 sheep. Based on this observation, I refer you to an earlier post, Are You A Member of A Flock or a Society?, and my thoughts on flocks and political shepherds.
Maternal Instincts – Continued includes more observations on the bond between mother and newborn sheep, and a segue to my thoughts on “shepherds.”