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3 Tips for Bonding with Your Sheep / Effective Ways Building Trust

3 Tips for Bonding with Your Sheep


Bonding with Your Sheep, and Gain the Trust of Your Sheep

Bonding with Your Sheep.  Sheep are a gentle, quiet and meek animal, belonging to the Bovidae family and genus Ovis. They are called ovines. They are ruminants( having complex stomach) and are commonly reared small animals to obtain worthy products such as milk, meat, and wool. Sheep farming is very common across the world. Even small scale farmers raise sheep for their livelihood.

Domestication has also favored the non-aggressive, docile nature of sheep, making it convenient for people, especially women and children, to look after sheep. Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated, and they have been over the centuries thoroughly domesticated.

Here we will discuss some important methods to create a strong association with sheep or to strengthen your bond with this cute and lovable animal.

Before that, there is a need to have a brief overview of sheep behavior.

Characteristics of Domesticated Sheep?

To get a comprehensive idea of sheep’s behavior is very much crucial to raise and handle sheep and this is very necessary for shepherds as well.

Sheep are ungulates and find their diet by grazing. They have a strong sense of flocking. In flocks, they feel safe and protected from predators. When you isolate them from their herd/flock, they become terrified and show stress.    

        There is safety in numbers. It is hard for a predator to pick a sheep, out of a group than to go after a few strays. Flocking instinct varies by breed, with the fine wool breeds being the most gregarious. It is this strong flocking instinct that allows one person to look after so many sheep

How Social Are Sheep?

According to animal behaviorists, sheep are considered social animals but usually with their own gender. You might have heard “Get one to go and they will all go” which means when in a herd, they listen to their leader to show their esteem. Because of their obedient nature, they are among the most popular animals loved by mankind.

As a matter of fact, sheep always keep visual contact with other sheep that better prevents excessive stress when moving, handling, or housing them.

3 Tips for Bonding with Your Sheep / Effective Ways Building Trust 1

Flocking Instinct is Helpful in Creating Bonds with Humans

As sheep follow a leader, if one sheep moves, the resting sheep will follow and move together. This flocking and following instinct of sheep enables humans to care for large numbers of sheep. It makes sheep comfortable to move or drive and enables a guardian dog to provide protection to a large flock. Domestication and thousands of generations of human contact have further strengthened this trait in sheep.

Rams, Male Sheep are Dominate?

Male sheep( rams) are socialized with other rams and they have their own group which is called “Bachelor herd” and females usually love to stay with each other in a nursery group that includes females and their young ones.

Young sheep learn from an early age to follow their leader (Instinctive feature). According to scientific literature, Male sheep fight for dominance in their group. Some ram each other at speeds up to 20 m/h 32 m/h). Dominance is gained when one male submits. This process can take hours

Do Sheep Have Strong Senses?

Sheep have all necessary senses which are essential for survival such as an excellent sense of smell; even it is believed that the olfactory system is more developed than humans. This good-smelling capability enables them to smell their predators and locate ewes   (female sheep) in hearing by rams.

Sheep see colors but with poor depth perception. Although, they have unlimited peripheral vision.

Sheep have good hearing sense, loud and clagging sounds make them frightened.

Note: This is recommended for sheep keepers to not speak aloud. As loudness can cause the release of stress-related hormones, making sheep stressful and feeling depressed. Handlers should speak politely and in a calm voice to minimize stress. This thing will be helpful in creating a strong bond with sheep.

Touch sense is also developed as it is necessary to sense the predators and for ewes to let down milk when their young ones touch them.

Sheep can differentiate between the various feedstuffs due to their significant taste sense.

3 Tips for Bonding with Your Sheep / Effective Ways Building Trust 2

Do Sheep Become Friendly With Humans? Scientific Insight

Coming to the point, it is necessary for sheep keepers to develop a strong bond with their domesticated sheep for better handling, rearing, and generating profit.

Long ago, it was perceived that sheep are stupid and defenseless animals. But new studies have totally changed this concept. Sheep are amazingly intelligent animals. Even they have a great sense of recognition and good memory.

They build friendships, stick up for one another in fights, and feel gloomy when their friends are sent to slaughter. They are also one of the most destructive creatures on our planet.

A research study in 2001, by Keith Kendrick, who is now at the University of Electronic Science and Technology in China, found that sheep can recognize and remember at least 50 individual faces for more than 2 years. That is a way longer than many humans.

In the study, Kendrick’s team trained sheep to differentiate between 25 pairs of sheep, by associating one member of each pair with a food reward.

It was concluded that sheep showed clear behavioral signs of recognizing individuals by vocalizing in response to their face pictures. The team also found evidence that sheep can differentiate among facial expressions, and prefer a smile to a frown.

Another research study was conducted to explore the human bond with lambs. The level of cortisol and other stress-related hormones was monitored in the plasma of lambs who were being fed by a caregiver for the last six weeks.

It was concluded that lambs’ behaviors when isolated and when in contact with the human were correlated suggesting a response to social separation from the familiar caregiver more than to social isolation from congeners.

No significant changes in cortisol levels were observed during the test. Levels of other stress hormones did not vary during human contact but increased when the familiar caregiver left the lamb alone in the test pen. So, it became clear that lambs displayed affiliative responses towards their caregiver.

It is suggested that by keeping good contact from an early age, sheep become familiar and social with humans. It is a fun way to be gentle with your sheep.

In addition to that, a study was conducted to observe the behavior of some lambs, as sheep are very timid to new humans at the start, but due to the constant exposure, they become pretty much familiar and build up bonds with sheep.

These results suggested that 40 min of positive human contact at age 1–3 days nicely reduced the lamb timidity to people. Socialization of lambs to humans need not disrupt the primary lamb–dam bond, and it may have positive management as well as welfare implications.

3 Suggestions to Gain the Trust of Your Sheep?

There are various ways to gain sheep’s trust if you are raising sheep for the first time and want to develop a positive association with your pretty sheep. As it becomes difficult if you have a large flock size. Gaining sheep’s trust takes some time and patience.

1) Regular Visits to the Flock

The first step towards handling sheep in a stress-free manner is to get them accustomed to being around the people who will handle them. Generally, based on what we have heard from shepherds and study in literature,, a common recommendation seems to be to “go into the flock”, i.e. to spend lots of time and often, with sheep. If necessary, you may confine yourself with the sheep in a small space.

Bread as well as pellet feeds are useful in both initiating as well as restoring friendships. Getting the sheep used to people is not a one-off endeavor. Keep constant contact with sheep and offer them feed, regardless of situation and season, otherwise, you will become a stranger.

2) Be Their Leader

As you know, this is the nature of sheep to follow their leader. If you or your designated shepherd becomes successful in becoming a friend with sheep then, you can become the leader-ewe or ram. Every morning, step into the flock by loud baaing. Sheep will show interest. Mostly this happens during the fall-winter season when you will bring yummy feed for them, they will come fast. In the summer, they are lazier and sometimes don’t prefer moving to you, if there is hope for a reward.

In the summer season, try to accustomed sheep with you by taking care of them and shearing them.

Note: Don’t chase and apply any force. Handle gently to keep them stress-free.

3) Visit Your Sheep in Small Spaces

Space must not be too large, it must be confined according to the size of the flock and for their easy momentum.
If you provide too large space, they will escape and it will create trouble while treating and handling them.

The shepherd can stay with the sheep and let them get accustomed to the situation.
So, space must be ideal neither too tight, nor large.


Sheep loves a smiley face. Ewes become frustrated when you pick up their lambs, it is recommended to approach politely and gently to handle lambs to gain mothers trust. Always try to observe any abnormal behavior due to any disease or during the mating season. During the mating season, rams become aggressive and destructive. Funny and interesting approaches must be taken to create bonds and become trustworthy people for your sheep.


Author: Dr. John Abbass
DVM M. Phil (Animal production & Welfare)


Coulon, M., Nowak, R., Peyrat, J., Chandèze, H., Boissy, A., & Boivin, X. (2015). Do lambs perceive regular human stroking as pleasant? Behavior and heart rate variability analyses. PLoS ONE, 10(2), e0118617

da Costa, A. P., Leigh A. E., Man, M.-S., & Kendrick, K. M. (2004). Face pictures reduce behavioral, autonomic, endocrine, and neural indices of stress and fear in sheep.

Sheep Farming for Wool Profitability Table

SheepLambs / 3 Per YrSpace Required 20 Sq Feet - EachGrazing Acres .3 / SheepFeed Required / Yr $10015 Lbs Wool / YearAverage Price $ 10 / LB WoolTotal Revenue Possible
1360 sq ft.9 acres$ 30045 lbs$ 450$ 150
26120 sq ft1.80 acres$ 60090 lbs$ 900$ 300
515300 sq ft4.5 acres$ 1,500225 lbs$ 2,250$ 750
1030600 sq ft9 acres$ 3,000450 lbs$ 4,500$ 1,500
20601200 sq ft18 acres$ 6,000900 lbs$ 9,000$ 3,000
30902,700 sq ft27 acres$ 9,0001,350 lbs$ 13,500$ 4,500
401204800 sq ft36 acres$ 12,0001,800 lbs$ 18,000$ 6,000
501503,000 sq ft45 acres$ 15,0002,250 lbs$ 22,500$ 7,500
1003006,000 sq ft90 acres$ 30,0004,500 lbs$ 45,000$ 15,000
20060012,000 sq ft180 acres$ 60,0009,000 lbs$ 90,000$ 30,000
Sheep can give Birth 6+ lambs every Two Years
Sheep can Produce 2 - 30 lbs of wool per year depending on Breed
Raw washed Wool Runs $ 6 - $ 14 using average $ 10
Feed 5 Months Buying Hay $ 100 rest Grazing
Please Check my Numbers

Sheep Farming for Milk Profitability Table

SheepLambs / 3 Per YrSpace Required 20 Sq Feet - EachGrazing Acres .3 / SheepFeed Required / Yr $100Wool $ 15 lb / YearAverage Price $ 10 / LB Wool90 Gallon/ Yr each ewePrice $ 30 per GallonTotal Wool Revenue PossibleTotal Revenue Milk and Wool
1360 sq ft.9 acres$ 30045 lbs$ 4502708100$ 1508,250
26120 sq ft1.80 acres$ 60090 lbs$ 90054016,200$ 30016,500
515300 sq ft4.5 acres$ 1,500225 lbs$ 2,250135040,500$ 75041,250
1030600 sq ft9 acres$ 3,000450 lbs$ 4,500270081,000$ 1,50082,500
20601200 sq ft18 acres$ 6,000900 lbs$ 9,0005400162,000$ 3,000165,000
30902,700 sq ft27 acres$ 9,0001,350 lbs$ 13,5008100243,000$ 4,500247,500
401204800 sq ft36 acres$ 12,0001,800 lbs$ 18,00010,800324,000$ 6,000330,000
501503,000 sq ft45 acres$ 15,0002,250 lbs$ 22,50013,500405,000$ 7,500412,500
1003006,000 sq ft90 acres$ 30,0004,500 lbs$ 45,00027,000810,000$ 15,000825,000
20060012,000 sq ft180 acres$ 60,0009,000 lbs$ 90,00054,0001,620,000$ 30,0001,650,000
Sheep can give Birth 6+ lambs every Two Years
Sheep can Produce 1/2 Gallon Milk per day / 180 Day Lactation
Raw Sheep Milk $9 - $25 per Quart - Used $ 30 per Gallon for Table
Feed 5 Months Buying Hay $ 100 rest Grazing
Please Check my Numbers

18 Breeds of Hair Sheep FAQ Table

Hair Breeds of SheepCountry OriginPurpose of BreedUseEwe Weight
KatahdinsCaribbean / Maine / AfricaTo Graze Power lines / instead of ChemicalsMeat120 - 160 lbs
DorperSouth AfricaThrive in Africa / Hot ClimateMeat / Fast Growing230 LBs
BlackbellyAmericaHot ClimatesMeat150 LBs
St. CroixCarribeanCame on Ships for Meat for sailorsMeat150 lbs
RomanovsRussiaPrimarily for MeatMeat
Wool - Double Coated
110 lbs
Blackhead PersianAfrica / SomailaBred for High Quanity of FatMeat120 lbs
West African DwarfSouth / Central AfricaMeat55 lbs
Red MaasiEast AfricaBred for Hardiness and parasite ResistanceMeat77 Lbs
Wiltshire HornEngland Do not suffer from FlystrikeMeat149 lbs
Royal WhiteUnited States / TexasBred for Tender Meat and Disease ResistantsMeat175 lbs
California RedNot completely Hair sheep/ Combination of both/ Prod 2 lambs YrMeat140 lbs
DamaraEgyptVigorous with fast growing / in extreme conditionsMeat110 lbs
PelibueyCuba / MexicoTropical SheepMeat75 lbs
AfricanaColumbia / VenezulaMeat110 lbs
MoradaBrazilSurvive ScrubMeat66 lbs
Brazillian SomailaSouth Africa / SomaliMeat
UdaAfricaLong Legged SheepMeat88 lbs
TouabireAfrica Dairy / Meat77 lbs
Breeds - Origin - Purpose - Weight

Minature Breeds of Sheep

BreedHeightWeight / Full GrownFood Per DayLifespanWool / Hair SheepCost
Quessant Sheep!8"28 - 30 Lbs1/2 - 1lb 10 - 12 YrsWool$ 350 - 450
Baby Doll Southdown18"75 lbs2 - 3 Lbs10 - 12 YrsWool$ 350 -450
Southdown Sheep18" - 24"130 lbs6 - 6 lbs10 - 12 YrsWool$ 180 - $ 600
Cheviot Sheep 20"130 Lbs6 - 6 lbs10 - 12 YrsWool$ 180 - $ 600
Border Cheviot20"130 lbs6 - 6 lbs10 - 12 YrsWool$ 180 - $ 600
Shetland Sheep24"75 - 100 lbs6 - 6 lbs10 - 12 YrsWool$ 50 - $100
Navajo - Churro20"110 lbs6 - 6 lbs10 - 12 YrsWool$ 200
Breed of Sheep and Physical Charistics
Amount of Food they Need
Wool - They Need to be Sheared Hair Sheep - Do not Grow Woll but shed Hair once a year
Pricing Depend whether you just want Sheep Or you want to Breed

Toxic Plants for Sheep Pastures

Toxic / Poisonous Plant Symptoms / Characteristics
Garden IrisRoots and stems
HollyBerries - Diarrhea - vomiting - stupor
Morning Gloryhallucinogenic seeds
RhubarbLeaves - Convulsions and Death
Wild CherryWilted Leaves have Cynaide - Convolusions, Rolling Eyes, Tongue hanging, animal dies within hours
YewNeedle Like Shrub - vomiting, convulsions, animals Rarely survive this poisoning
OaksAcorns, young trees - anorexia, constipation diahreah thirst gastro problems
Mountain LaurelSame symptoms of Poiaoning. Vomiting, Diahreah, salivation - Usually fall into Coma and then Death
RhododendronSame symptoms of Poiaoning. Vomiting, Diahreah, salivation - Usually fall into Coma and then Death
AzaleaSame symptoms of Poiaoning. Vomiting, Diahreah, salivation - Usually fall into Coma and then Death
List of Poisonous / Toxic Plants
many of these are found around Fence Rows
Fields Should be Checked

Sheep Associations 10 Breeds of Sheep

Breeds of SheepCountry OriginPurpose of BreedUseEwe WeightAssociation For Info
Suffolk SheepBritian / SuffolkFast GrowingMeat250 - 350 LbsUnited Suffolk Sheep Association
Merino SheepSpainSoftest WoolWool100 - 200 LbsAmerican and Delane Merino Sheep Association
HampshireBritainBest Tasting MuttonWool / Meat200 LbsAmerican Hampshire Sheep Association
RomneyEngland / Romney MarshDisease ResistanceWool / Meat225 - 275 LbsAmerican Romney Breeders Association
Lincoln SheepEnglandProduce Longest Fleece In WorldWool250 - 350 LbsNational Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association
Dorper SheepSouth AfricanFast Growing MeatMeat230 LbsAmerican Droper Sheep association
Turcana SheepRomainiaAdapted Alpine PastureWool / Milk / Meat175 - 200 Lbs?
Rambouilette SheepFranceStrong / Hearty / All ClimatesWool / Meat300 LbsAmerican Rambouilette Sheep Breeders Association
Leicester LongwoolUnited KingdomFast growing / Good FleeceWool200 LbsLeicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association
Breeds - Origin - Purpose - Weight