• Whole Sheep

Clever Sheep

Somewhat belatedly, let me introduce some new sheep that have joined us here. These are Lleyns, a Welsh sheep originally from the Lleyn Peninsular, north Wales. Now 11 in number we have re-homed them from the University of Cambridge where they were part of a research project led by Professor Jenny Morton. This research showed that sheep are much more intelligent than the simple practitioners of ‘group think’ that they are often portrayed to be. The study demonstrated that sheep are able to recognise the faces of people they have only seen through photographs, in this case, pictures of certain celebrities – Barack Obama, Emma Watson, Fiona Bruce and Jake Gyllenhaal. After training, the researchers put the sheep in front of two computer screens, with the ‘known’ celebrity on one, and a random face on the other. Each computer screen had an infrared beam underneath it, and if the sheep broke the infrared beam by ‘choosing’ the correct image, they received a treat. The sheep soon learned to play the game and chose the correct image even when the angle of the head in the photograph was changed. The research demonstrates that sheep have significant cognitive capabilities and are quick decision-makers. The research is useful for further research into understanding terrible diseases, particularly Huntington’s disease, and to finding ways to combat it. To see the sheep in action, check this video

We are remiss in not showing the sheep any more pictures of these celebrities and watching how they react. They have settled into life here, however, and, presumably, because they are so used to being handled, they are mostly very friendly. Show them a sheep race and they’ll go enthusiastically down it, perhaps hoping to find photographs and a treat at the other end. Most had lambs last year. The cute white lambs (pictured) were fathered by our Gotland ram, Benny, and are particularly charming. The sheep are mostly ‘retired’ now and it is strange to think of them grazing in the field with memories of days of research in Cambridge.

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