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How Well do Shepherds Know their Sheep?

Clara Parkes
Clara Parkes
2 min read
How Well do Shepherds Know their Sheep?

We know that sheep have the capacity to remember the faces of other sheep and humans. A 2001 report made this clear, noting that sheep can remember as many as 50 faces. More remarkable is the fact that sheep can even recognize photographs of people they already know.

But does it work the other way around? Can shepherds recognize their flock, even if mixed with other seemingly identical sheep? In 1963, the BBC performed an experiment to find out. And lucky for us, they archived this charming bit of history.

First, a quick note for Foundation Flock members: We have two livestream goodies coming up this week! This Sunday, May 23, at 10am EDT, we head to Vermont for an exclusive ringside seat to watch Jubilee, Wing and a Prayer Farm's miracle Valais Blacknose, get her second haircut. And on Tuesday, May 25, at 7pm EDT, it's time for our second livestream Flock Talk Q&A with my state-of-the-channel report and a special treat. Stay tuned for links to both events.

Now, back to the BBC experiment. It was prompted by a court case in which a shepherd argued that some sheep from his flock had "joined" another flock. When asked how he knew, he simply said that he recognized them.

For those who don't work with sheep every day, the claim could've seemed absurd. So the fine people at the BBC staged an experiment to see just how realistic the claim was. It's all documented in this delightful seven-minute clip that's very much worth a watch.


Sheep recognition experiment
Tonight conducted a fascinating “sheep recognition” experiment. Why not play along at home? Try not to fall asleep, mind.

Clara Parkes

Wool is life. I make The Wool Channel go.