How Do Sheep Recognize You?

(Feeding Iona cookies)

I don’t really know the answer to this question, but I am curious. I have talked before about our sheep and our work with taming them. This winter we had a lot of progress. In the early part of the winter, we purchased a shepherd’s hook. Every morning when I went into the sheep pen to give them their daily “cookie”(oats, molasses and apples), I would bring the hook in with me – let them smell and lick it, and use it to “pet” them, so they would get used to it being on them, so we could eventually use it to catch them.

During winter, we wore the same coats, day in and day out. I also fell out of the habit of using the shepherd’s hook in February when they came back from a month at the breeders. Well as the weather changed and we stopped wearing the coats, they began to get more skittish, especially when we were just taking walks passed their pen, they would either hide in their enclosure or bend their heads and necks low to the ground, ready to jump and run.

It made us think, did they recognize us with the pattern of the coats? I am still not sure. But this week I started using the shepherd’s hook again and they have been much friendlier. Do they remember the hook from before? Is the association between that and the cookies just part of their psyche now?

So how do your sheep recognize you?

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6 Responses to How Do Sheep Recognize You?

  1. I so love the workings of human and other critters’ brains. Thanks!

  2. Jenny says:

    I have a small flock of Shetlands (6 ewes & 2 rams). They know me by sight and by ‘voice recognition’. I regularly ‘call’ to them and make my sheepy calls (I do the same for my goats). We have quite the conversation!! :) I’m an embarrassment to my 17-year old daughter! haha When they’re grazing in the back forty & I ‘call’ them…they come bounding over hill and dale! I probably spend more time with them than most? I’ll lay flat-out in the pasture w/the lambs mid-summer and they’ll climb all over me! They have no fear. I think the key is ‘trust’. I occasionally ‘throw’ my ram(s) on his back to maintain a dominant relationship. (It’s probably not too smart to get too friendly w/a ram.) My ‘treat’ is animal crackers. There are days when the girls will have nothing to do with me, and other times when they want lots of attention! I think, the more time/interaction you spend w/your sheep the more docile they’ll become.

    • admin says:

      So maybe my sheep are just weird. I also call to mine and talk to them on a regular basis, like every day. We spend time and visit together and I give them treats from my hands – whcich is going very well now. But I could never let them graze in the back 40 and then just call to them and have them come! I wish! LOL…I am hoping to have better luck with the lambs and getting them socialized with us straight away.

      BTW, Jenny, do you bottle feed your lambs?

  3. Stevie says:

    Hmmmmm….interesting. I have been assisting at a friend’s farm and was shocked at how skittish the sheep were. I am used to dairy goats who practically fall into your lap. We are actually getting 2 lambs this Friday. I didn’t really want to raise bottle babies but was afraid they’d be hard to manage if we didn’t. Guess I will wear the same coat each time I go out :)
    Stevie@ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

    • admin says:

      Yeah, dairy goats are more like dogs! LOL :) I know, I am so torn about bottle feeding and what is the best way to go about it…

  4. Hello again! Since I enjoy reading your blog so much, I wanted to invite you to mine. I’m a music teacher, so I also have a business blog. I laughed at your last post because I was wearing a hoodie the other day and my sheep stared at me like I had 10 heads and wouldn’t come near me. I said to them “What, is my hood scary?” and took it off and then they recognized me. I have to keep talking to them so they recognize my voice, because if I’m too quiet they look at me differently and back away. I realize now I need to handle my lamb more often because she was squirmy and difficult when I tipped her to trim her hooves, unlike her mama who seems to have the lights go out once I tip her. Always an adventure!

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