In chapter 4, Mo leaps to the side of the road and finds dozens, maybe even hundreds, of sheep traveling down the road, heading straight toward him at a fast pace.
What should he do? Should he simply watch them walk by? He never talked to sheep before. Would they be nice? If he waved hello, would anyone wave back? All he remembers is how his friends back home would sometimes describe bashful or shy animals or people as “sheepish”, and others who were followers as sheep.
Actually, sheep are not so shy. They’re highly social and intelligent animals. Besides protection from predators, another important reason they stay in groups (known as herds, flocks or mobs) is because of the strong social bonds they form with each other. They can sense different emotions from other sheep and gauge how they’re feeling, which is the basis for forming strong social relationships.
9 Unique Facts about Sheep
Like Mo and Finchy, there could be many things you may not know about these farm animals. Here’s 9 more facts about sheep:
- What’s one sheep called? Simple. He or she is called a sheep. But what about many sheep? Are they called sheeps? Actually, no. You can call them sheep or as mentioned above, a flock, herd, or mob.
- Sheep are clever animals. Not only are they smart but they also have great memories. Research shows that they can recognize the faces of up to 50 other sheep for two years, whether they’re friends, family or strangers. They can also remember human faces.
- Look in the mirror. See the small black circles in your eyes? They’re called pupils, which control the amount of light that enters your eyes so you can see images. Well, the pupils of sheep are shaped like a rectangle which gives them an amazing amount of vision all around themselves. If you could see all around yourself—including behind you—your field of vision would be 360 degrees. Humans average about 155 degrees. But the field of vision for sheep is between 270 and 320 degrees. Think of this like surround sound for your eyes. This helps sheep be aware of predators while they’re grazing, or when their heads are down and they’re munching on grass, weeds or hay.
- They’re doctors, well, sort of. Sheep are taught from other sheep which plants or other things to eat to either prevent or treat a disease or illness they may have.
- Just like humans, sheep have different personalities. Studies have also shown that they exhibit basic emotions, ranging from fear or anger to feeling bored, sad, or happy.
- There are over 1,000 different breeds of sheep. Some have the ability to grow two, four, or six horns, or have long, silky hair unlike other breeds with curly wool. Oh, and their wool will grow forever until they get a haircut or their wool is sheared!
- Young sheep are called lambs. Adult female sheep are known as ewes while adult male sheep are called rams.
- Ewes can recognize which lamb is theirs just by the sound of their voices.
- Sheep don’t have any top front teeth. They don’t lose them like people do with baby teeth and then grow back permanent teeth. So how do they eat or chew food? They have a hard upper palate that their lower teeth press up against to break down food, which is mainly plants, grasses and shrubby vegetation.
The Most Famous Sheep (actually, a lamb)
It would be silly to share all the wonderful attributes of sheep without mentioning the most famous one of all. Have you ever heard the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb?” Probably. But did you know that it’s actually based on a true story?
Back in 1815, a nine year-old girl, Mary Elizabeth Sawyer, was helping her father with farm chores when they discovered a sickly newborn lamb in the sheep pen that had been abandoned by its mother. Mary wanted to keep the animal and nurse it back to health. After much begging, her father agreed.
The lamb’s health improved and followed Mary everywhere, even to school one day. Mary hid the lamb under her desk but it soon popped out of its hiding place. The teacher believed her classroom was no place for a lamb and shooed it outdoors, where the lamb waited for Mary until lunchtime, when she walked it home.
The following day, John Roulstone, a student in Mary’s class, wrote what is now the very famous nursery rhyme:
Mary had a little lamb; Its fleece was white as snow; And everywhere that Mary went, The lamb was sure to go. It followed her to school one day, Which was against the rule; It made the children laugh and play; To see a lamb at school. And so the teacher turned it out; But still it lingered near, And waited patiently about, Till Mary did appear.
Do you know something unusual about sheep? Or if you live on a farm or happen to have a pet sheep, email us about what makes your sheep so funny, different or amazing and we’ll publish it along with your name, age and name of your state!