shows the herd instinct to be present in various degrees, in the different sheep
this an inherited character, or is it learned?
,is it an inherited instinct combined with inviromental influence, making some
herds of sheep show flockbehaviour, and other flocks to behave more egoistic on
Sirdalsheiene foto O. E.
the herd instinct is inherited, seems evident, when observe the behaviour of for
example the spaelsau and then
specially the old type, cause it`s such a distinct flock-animal, in the right
cirkumstances. One specially feels it, during the gathering of them in the
the spaelsau is flocking, in opposition to for example
the Norwegian Pelt Sheep (A close relative to the Gotland Pelt Sheep),
which generally shows individualistic behaviour. In stead of following the flock,
it uses any opportunity to individually
run off away behind a boulder or into some thicket.
concern in this connection is, if I, as a sheep breeder can make a plan for the
herd instinct to develop and eventually if it can develop in
a wanted direction. With wanted flock behaviour I specially think of two
conditions: Flocking, as a defence against predators, especially foxes, hunting
lambs in the spring, -and flocking, as wanted behaviour, to ease the gathering
of them in the fall.
noticed then, how my own spaelsau rapidly flocks, almost as the musk-ox do, when
I let my dog into the pastures. If the dog is offensive, the flock don’t take
flight, but keeps quiet, while one or a couple of ewes launch an attack on the
dog. The sheep of mine have horns and they’ve subjected the dogs to powerful
strikes. Is it such, that knowing of the defence-capacity by the horns,
strengthens the self-confidence of the sheep when predators attacks?
kind of reaction is seen ,when the sheep grazes, then they walk staying a flock,
as if on a line and when they chew-cud, also then in flock, my spaelsau has a
view to all sides, if they then observes a dog or some other danger at a
distance, they take flight as a flock.
the gathering at the fall, the spaelsau is easy. Do you find one, usually you’ve
found all. Even though big livestock-flocks can split up in smaller units in the
grazing season, they’re fast together again. I’ve been told that spaelsau
summer grazing on highland pastures, situated close to their farmyard, often
draws homeward in flocks.
the question is: can we define or suppress the herd instinct by our way of sheep
that, specially think of our habitual way, keeping the sheep during winter, the
time of indoor-feeding. I’ve
the idea that the flocks behavioural unity and correlation develops the best,
when all ewes
sheep breeding has caused enclosure in separated pastures and fencings, for many
a row, already from the time of fall, when the young ewes, are kept on their own
fodder. The same applies to the separation of the fat sheep in the time of
stall-feeding . My claim is, that if we’ll let all sheep, including the
yearlings, get out every day collectively, the flock behaviour is kept alive and
probably also strengthened. Then develops an order of rank, who also take
advantage of the horns as status-symbol and then, the yearlings learns from the
behaviour of the elder ewes.
it be a lot of work, to separate them in groups, every time they are taken in ?
Till that, is to say that the
spaelsau ,whom I’ve worked with, learns quite easy. I separate them in three
fencings: The yearlings, the two year olds and the elder ewes. I never fill
their troughs with concentrates to get them in, but only with silo-fodder;
because concentrates distracts too much, so they’ll go to the trough most easy
to get to, and the first ones in, will eat most of the fodder.
one week of consequent separation, where they realize the troughs are freshly
filled ,when they come in, they separate on their own, almost without exceptions;
even though the yearlings has to walk, crossing a big barn floor, into separate
fencings, to which the doors are open. They’ll then get the concentrate in the
morning, before they are send out, to a new day among the juniper bushes.
the winter a grown ewe broke her foot and had to stay inside a fence, in the
back of the enclosure of the other ewes. It was possible to have nose/smell
contact during nights. But when I after a couple of month, let her out to the
other sheep, their behaviour, also the yearlings, showed that she was rejected
from the flock! She was regularly bullied and had lost her rank and had now
another rank than before. Did the sheep understand, she would be a drag to the
flock, with her slow and limp walking ? That she in this way could attract
The sheep has a peculiar sound of warning by danger. The one sensing it ,blows through the nose with a hissing "physsssssttt". Immediately all the sheep pays attention. Do the guard blow once more, the sheep rapidly flocks and eventually takes flight if the danger is still present.
have used this characteristic when I’m checking the sheep on the spring/fall
pastures. I must add that they’re mostly tame and I can walk among them,
without any special reaction on their part. Many of them also likes to be
scratched under the chin and cuddled. When I come out on the pasture and see
some of the sheep at a distance, I copy their warning sound, once and twice ,and
rapidly sheep is swarming out from thickets and fens, gathering as a flock.
Notice, I’ve not shown myself to them, yet. When I then call in my normal way,
they come storming toward me, to get some cuddling, though I never carry
concentrates or salt or other eatables.
where my thoughts and experiences with the flock behaviour of horned old
article by Ottar Endresen describing his typical West-Coast sheep farming will be translated from the Scandinavian pages of Sheep-Isle
during the fall.
This article is a co-operation between Norwegian Sheep Breeders Association (Sau & Geit) and Sheep-Isle.