One of this week’s news headlines was “sheep have shown they can recognise familiar human faces” as a result of a Cambridge University study.
So I’ve been asked a few times this week if I agree. In short yes I do.
In fact the sheep don’t take very long to recognise people either.
During our team-building programmes, we challenge groups of 10 to 16 people to herd a small flock of sheep into a pen. We frequently overhear comments like “well this should be easy since sheep are so stupid, just following each other all the time”.
The sheep quickly get the upper hand however, running all over the field darting around the people. The animals build up a picture of the individuals, identifying who is likely to stand up to them and those who are less assertive. They recognise the less confident people in less than a couple of hours and will identify the weak links which they can push past without being challenged.
Even when coats are taken off and positions change in the group the sheep will still pick on the least confident.
In our case we’ve always reckoned that the sheep are reading the energy of people, perhaps smelling their fear or watching their body language. And now the Cambridge University study suggests they can recognize faces too.
So sheep are stupid are they? I’ve never thought so.