Sunday, May 21, 2006


Some of my favourite animals (next to stoats) are sheep. I've alway thought that they are more intelligent than given credit for. After seeing Skippy at Bede's World muck about and generally run the show, I knew there was more sheep than meets the eye. And now there's scientific evidence, as reported in The Independent on Sunday :

Sheep are not so dumb after all. New research shows that they self-medicate when they are ill. They can also identify and remember faces, both human and ovine, distinguish between happy and depressed expressions, and tell one sheep's bleating from another.

Scientists have discovered that sick sheep can accurately self-medicate for stomach problems. When sheep were given food than made them unwell, they were able to select and eat the right cures for constipation and heartburn. "People learn to take aspirin for headaches and antacids for stomach aches... Is it also possible that herbivores write their own prescriptions?" ask the researchers ... (Roger Dobson, Independent on Sunday, 21 May 2006)

What's more, the Independent has offered an apology to sheep in general. And not before time ;-) :

Leading article: Sheep - an apology
Published: 21 May 2006
There will be some readers, we fear, who will not take seriously our report today about the intelligence of sheep. There are still far too many people in this country who use sheep analogies in a thoughtless, hurtful and derogatory way. The word is used to imply someone who possesses no independence of thought, who is a passive follower of trends. Such lazy stereotypes, and the infantile sniggering and insensitive sniping that often accompany them, do a considerable disservice to a proud species ...


At 8:00 pm BST, Blogger Sarah Cuthbertson said...

I've just (not at all sheepishly) given myself a sound rap on the knuckles for my stereotypical denigration of sheep IQ. One thing I do admire about them is their stoicism in the face of appalling winter weather, especially in the hills.
Self-medicating sheep - I love it!

I wonder if "gay rams" are a myth too?

At 10:09 am BST, Blogger Martyn said...

Sheep are ace ! We spent a week in a cottage in the Highlands watching them in the neighbouring field. They seem to have buddies and they talk to one another. They'd get all excited every time the shepherd appeared.


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