Typically, when we think of sheep, we think of lamb chops and wool, and/or cartoons like Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf. Occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, you’ll see a video of someone being knocked down by one of the rams.
Now, while we might get a bit of a chuckle out of it from time to time, these videos do bring up an interesting question: are sheep dangerous?
No, sueep are not usually aggressive – they typically keep their distance, and mind their own business. With that said, they can become aggressive when cornered, threatened, or mistreated, particularly the rams.
Rams tend to headbutt each-other in fights, and sometimes they headbutt humans as well; knocking them down. The blunt force injuries from the actual headbutt can sometimes be fatal.
Different Breeds of Sheep
First off, as with all animal species, there are a few different types of sheep. Some examples include:
- Lincoln Long Wool
Merino, Cotswold, and the Lincoln Long Wool are domestic breeds raised for meat and wool respectively.
Bighorn sheep live in large herds and are named for their large horns. They are found throughout North America. Both the rams and the ewes have horns with the rams’ horns being longer and more curved than those of the ewes. These guys typically weigh in at 315 lbs. (143kg) with their horns weighing around 30 lbs. (14kg).
Dall sheep are found in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, as well as a few other places. Like Bighorn sheep, Dall sheep have horns with the rams having longer, curvier horns than the ewes. Predators that prey on these sheep include wolves, bears, and coyotes but, and you guys are going to love this, Dall sheep are known to headbutt wolves off cliffs!
Each breed is unique in size, appearance, and interactions, and each will have a different… personality – for lack of a better word.
Sheep prefer to Keep their Distance
While the weight of these animals and, in the cases of some breeds, horns provide a significant amount of risk or threat; sheep are generally not dangerous to humans.
Sheep are cautious and will rarely attack humans, preferring instead to just keep a safe distance or, if that fails, to run – especially if they’re in the wild. With that said, they can become defensive when cornered/mistreated which could be a very bad time for all involved. The same thing happens if you corner many other animals: you hurt them, and they’ll hurt you.
Something to keep in mind is that certain human behavior – i.e. patting their heads, scratching, rubbing, etc. – may be interpreted as a threat display and/or a challenge which may provoke an aggressive or defensive reaction.
Watch out for the Rams
When interacting with sheep – either wild or domesticated – it’s always a good idea to watch out for the rams. Rams, for those who don’t know, are the males that haven’t been…erm…snipped – if he’s been snipped, the ram is called a wether.
Problems with rams will usually start when they reach puberty (go figure) and are looking to make a name for themselves as the proverbial king of the hill. They will challenge the top ram – you – for dominance over the rest of the flock.
They usually only butt heads with each other, and they rarely become aggressive with humans. That said, an aggressive ram can cause more than a few problems for your homestead.
Typically, what you have to worry about is being headbutted by a ram. Now, that probably doesn’t sound like much but take it from someone who knows, it’s not a pleasant experience.
The air is pushed from your lungs, and you’re left short of breath, a bit lightheaded, and in varying degrees of pain – depending on the surrounding area where you were knocked down.
Getting knocked down onto rocks or, as in my experience, into a barbed wire fence is painful and impacts with your chest, back, and/or head can lead to some very serious blunt force injuries. These injuries can be, and sometimes are fatal to those who sustain them.
So, the Final Verdict?
The final answer is no, sheep aren’t usually dangerous to humans. Rams will be aggressive at times but, generally, sheep prefer to mind their own business, and keep their distance. That said, they can become aggressive if threatened or cornered – much like any other intelligent animal.
While they might not fit the traditional image of a ‘dangerous’ animal, sheep can do some significant damage; inflicting blunt force injuries that can, in some cases, prove fatal.
That brings us to the end of this adventure! I hope you guys enjoyed the article and found it informative. As always, I’d like to say thanks for reading and I’ll see you for the next one!
Take care, and remember to keep your eyes on your rams!
Greg spent most of his childhood in camping grounds and on hiking trails. While he lives in suburbs nowadays, Greg was raised on a small farm with chickens. He’s a decent shot with a bow, and a knife enthusiast.