Can Sheep Live Without a Shepherd?
Farming | Livestock

Can Sheep Live Without a Shepherd?

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Shepherding sheep can often be a tedious and hectic job. It requires one to be ever watchful and vigilant. For this reason, it’s only natural for the shepherd to get tired and overwhelmed. If this is the case for you and you were wondering whether your flock can live without you, here is the answer to your question.

No. Sheep cannot live without the shepherd. They are entirely dependent on the shepherd for everything. They require constant care and watching over. So leaving them unattended can put them at risk and greatly endanger their lives.

Now that we’ve answered the backbone question of this article, it’s important to delve into the specifics of why sheep require the presence of the shepherd at all times. So read on and I guarantee that this will be an insightful article for you!

Can Sheep Live Without a Shepherd?

The fast-paced development of the modern world has affected the dynamics of the shepherding job. At times the shepherd is unavailable owing to unavoidable circumstances. This can hugely affect his/her flock. 

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to claim that sheep are not the brightest animals. But what we really should ponder at length is the importance of a shepherd in the sheep’s life. Can sheep survive without the care of the shepherd? 

As mentioned above, sheep cannot live without a shepherd. This is the case for domesticated sheep breeds. Unlike wild sheep that are adapted to living on their own, domesticated sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd. Be it for pasture and water, for grooming, or for protection. 

It goes without saying that shepherds are essential for the survival of their sheep!

What Happens to Sheep Without a Shepherd?

Like I’ve already said earlier in this article, sheep aren’t necessarily the brightest animals you’ll find on the farm. It should come as no surprise that if left to themselves, sheep are very unlikely to last for long.

Without a shepherd, sheep are prone to wandering off from the flock and there’s a reason for this. Naturally, sheep are hotwired to follow each other. If you take a chance and observe their movement you’ll see this. The paths they follow are usually winding. They do this so they can see ahead and behind them. They can’t help it! It’s just an inbuilt instinct in their brains that cannot be changed.

But what does this mean if there isn’t a shepherd watching over them? 

One of the likely scenarios is that the sheep can follow each other off a cliff. Think about it. They just follow each other around with no thought of danger in mind. So if the sheep at the front of the flock tumbles down a cliff, it’s quite likely that the rest will do so too.

Without a shepherd, it may also become hard for sheep to find pasture and water which they require for survival. In such a case the ewes may become weak and unable to provide milk for their offspring who then die.

Another instance is that they may get attacked by predators. Sheep are fairly defenseless animals. If left on their own they can get easily picked off by predators. Even in their huge numbers, they stand no chance against a hungry apex predator.  

Also, if sheep have no shepherd, their wool overgrows. It becomes matted, heavy, dirty, and is infected with parasites. This infects them with diseases and internal worms which may reduce their survival rate. Without a shepherd, their hoofs are uncared for which may make it hard for them to move.

Unattended sheep are usually a sorry sight to see. There are a lot of unfortunate things that could happen to them if a shepherd is not present.

Do Sheep Get Lost Easily?

It’s quite easy for sheep to get lost. Due to their ‘flocking’ mentality, they are likely to go astray on most occasions. Sheep follow one another blindly. They have an instinct to flock together so as to keep safe. This means that if the leader gets lost, the rest of the flock is lost too. 

The truth of the matter is that if one sheep decides to go a certain way, the rest of the sheep will always go that way even if it’s not a good idea. It’s not something they ‘think ‘about; it’s just conditioned in their brains from birth. Even when being watched by a shepherd it’s easy for sheep to get lost. All it takes is for one member of the flock to wander off and the rest will follow.

Another thing worth noting is that sheep get spooked easily. They are afraid, even of the smallest things you can think of. But this doesn’t mean you should mess around with them! They can be dangerous if provoked. 

Here is the point I’m trying to get across with this; if they are scared or get attacked by a predator sheep flee without a moment’s notice. They won’t try to fight in any way. This is their natural instinct. They have excellent senses. So if they are spooked, they take off. When this happens, it’s easy for them to get lost. 

When a sheep becomes separated from the flock, it usually becomes agitated. It can wander off even further in such an instance. And believe it or not, finding them can become a hassle. If you take to the internet you’ll find dozens of stories of shepherds who lost their sheep and went through hell searching for them. Sometimes they succeed, other times they fail miserably.

So, with all this in mind, you can see how is easy it is for sheep to get lost.

Shepherd Dogs

Shepherd dogs are very intelligent and are usually skilled at herding. Shepherd dogs guide large flocks of sheep and act as a living fence. They prevent sheep from eating crops on farms and also from wandering off. They help the shepherd safely move the flock from the farm to the pasture land. They also protect and keep the flock safe from danger.

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