Gated Community

Heading out for a walk this weekend, the other half and I noted that the farmer (either that or someone with a more impressive collection of stuff-that-might-come-in-handy in their shed than us) had replaced the broken half of the gate with a new gate. We also noticed that Houdini the sheep was back out of her field again and happily browsing the verge outside the landlord’s house. Having checked the level of the ford (a surprisingly robust five inches), and considered sampling the raspberries (raspberries! in November!) in the hedgerows we wandered homewards and considered what best to do about the sheep. Chasing her into the landlord’s garden didn’t seem quite on, and nor did leaving her where was on the road because we’d feel pretty rotten if we came across her mangled corpse the next morning, sheep not being particularly hi vis nor reflective, nor, indeed, particularly endowed with road sense. We briefly considered herding her into our garden and keeping her as a pet (and blog fodder – the other half is a harsh critic and feels the blog has been on an endless downwards slide, quality wise, since it started and could do with an expanded cast of characters) but in the end she made up her own mind and headed off back to the gate where after a certain amount of vaguely comic squeezing (you never have your camera with you when these sorts of things happen, do you?) she reinserted herself into the field via the unbroken half of the gate.

This morning, we found that the farmer (or impressive shed hoarder) had done this:

blocked and mended gate

I’d like to think that that was an end to the saga, but having seen this sheep in action, I’m not 100% convinced. Stay tuned for further developments.

9 Responses to Gated Community

  1. Sounds like that most dangerous of animals: a clever sheep.

  2. disgruntled says:

    Clever is relative…

  3. john gibson says:

    I for one welcome our new sheep overlords.

  4. bob says:

    I’ve heard it said that “you’d need a 12 foot wall, lathed and plastered” to keep in sheep. Not much of an exaggeration.

  5. Charles says:

    Sheep used to invade my aunt’s garden on Dartmoor. Fun if you are 10 and like running around pretending to be John Wayne at a round up. Less fun in the rain when your knees are knackered. What you need is a semi retired sheep dog that can muster a slow trot but spends most of the time snoozing.

  6. disgruntled says:

    @John – I think you’ll find they’re mostly overladies
    @Bob – makes you wonder why the standard sheep-retaining structure here is a pile of stones
    @Charles – it’s tempting. Plenty of collies around here although they’re mostly a bit mad

  7. Don’t misunderestimate the sheep! “Sheep can perform ‘executive’ cognitive tasks that are an important part of the primate behavioral repertoire, but which have never been shown previously to exist in any other large animal”. Apparently, “the strategies used by
    sheep for these solving tasks may be more similar to humans and
    non-human primates than to rodents.”

    Also, it seems that sheep enjoy a bit of a challenge: “positive emotion (ears forward, eye contact with the handler, nuzzling of the handler) was evident in all of the sheep, particularly before each test run began”, but “if the animals made incorrect choices, they showed displacement activity and irritability.”

    So, “sheep have an agreeable disposition, and make willing [although somewhat rumbustious] experimental subjects” for cognitive tasks.

    (Morton, Jennifer A.; Avanzo, Laura (2011): Executive Decision-Making in the Domestic Sheep. PLoS ONE, 6(1), e15752+. DOI:

  8. disgruntled says:

    Excellent! Love it.

  9. WOL says:

    If you see Houdini sheep again, you might hum a couple of choruses . . .

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