Are sheep smarter than goats

Are Sheep Smarter Than Goats? (4 Facts To Know!)

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As a sheep farmer, I have noticed that many people think sheep are stupid animals without the ability to think independently. But this is further from the truth! However, where do they rank in intelligence compared to other animals? Are sheep smarter than goats?

Goats and sheep have many similarities, including being domesticated by humans, sharing the same social structures, and even nearly the same size. Furthermore, genetically, these animals are closely related.

However, those facts aside, let’s examine how sheep compare to goats intellectually.

Are sheep smarter than goats

Are Sheep Smarter Than Goats?

Generally, goats are smarter than sheep but do not be surprised to find a more intelligent sheep than a goat. It’s possible to train goats to do various tricks like spinning around, standing on pedestals, shaking hands, and jumping through a hoop. You may have even heard of goats used for yoga.

Sheep’s instinct to stick together and follow a leader for protection has earned them an unfair reputation of being considered stupid. However, these docile animals have considerable survival and social skills.

I have a sheep that will open the door knobs to the kitchen and steal crackers. Not once, but several times. My sheep recognize my face and voice and other familiar ones; even when my children are gone for months in college, they remember them when they return.

Goats seem to be more curious and tend to get themselves in trouble. They also seem to understand geometry more which they use to navigate different situations.

For example, a goat can figure out how to jump over a 6 feet high fence to get to the other side without getting hurt. Furthermore, the fact that they can navigate through high cliffs and climb tall trees is simply impressive.

READ ALSO: Why Do Shepherds Put Oil On Sheep?

Sheep and Goats Intelligence Compared

As already established, these animals are intelligent, with goats edging sheep a bit. In this segment, we’ll discuss the various aspects goats and sheep display their intelligence.

1. Adapting to New Environments

Goats adapt to novel situations and environments faster than goats. While both animals will feel puzzled when taken to a new place or when something new, like a fence, is introduced, they eventually familiarize themselves with their new normal. The difference is goats take a shorter time to do so.

2. Learning

The sheep’s ovine brain helps them learn things pretty fast, sometimes needing only two tries. They are visual learners with impressive eyesight of about 270 to 320 º arcs. They use the blue-green-yellow spectrum to distinguish various colors and learn to pick different containers marked with distinct colors.

Sheep also understand that just because a feed container is covered doesn’t mean it’s empty. In addition, they use their incredible sense of taste and smell to select plants, recognizing various species and categorizing them based on similarity. They learn to discern which plants are edible and the ones to avoid.

Sheep also use scent to recognize companions and young ones. Furthermore, they have a good memory, which they use to remember the place they found food in the past.

On the other hand, goats excel in figuring out how to obtain hard-to-reach food and open gates. Goats also use their acute senses and sharp minds to keep off predators. In addition, they use their sensitivity and good memories to identify competitors and companions.

3. Social intelligence

Goats and sheep are social animals, but while sheep are flock animals, goats aren’t flock-oriented like their sheep cousins. Sheep rely on each other for protection by flocking together as predators find it hard to single out one sheep when many bodies are stuck together.

Moreover, it’s better for them to stay vigilant when they have many eyes watching out for potential dangers.

Sheep build relationships based on friendship and cooperation using their recognition skills and good memory to recall the individuals they encounter daily. While sheep learn a lot from each other, goats prefer to figure out things independently through investigations instead of learning from other goats.

That is why goats will always be in trouble and are likely to harm themselves or eat toxic plants due to their exploring nature.

Nonetheless, despite goats being more independent animals, it does not mean they do not pick a thing or two from each other. It is worth noting that goats and sheep get depressed when isolated or separated from their companions.

4. Stimulation

Typically, animals that have sharper minds require fulfilling stimulation of some sort, which is why goats are naturally explorative and curious.

They are mischievous, often headbutting each other playfully, attempting to jump over fences, and breaking into feed containers. However, mother goats treat young ones gently, nurturing their offspring and even adopting orphaned goats and lambs.

On the other hand, sheep are gentler, are more cautious, and collaborate more but are still playful. They are less likely to jump over fences or go over dangerous places. Like mother goats, ewes are nurturing, caring, and protective of lambs.

Are sheep smart

Are Sheep More Socially Intelligent Than Goats?

Social intelligence is one area sheep excel over other farm animals, including goats. They prefer to stay in herds and form emotional connection with one another. While sheep have individual characteristics, they are able to co-exist together peacefully.

The personalities in a flock affect the bonds and friendships sheep make, which in turn impacts the way a herd moves around and splits. For instance, the most gregarious sheep in a flock tend to be the leader while the rest follow.

Also, each sheep utilizes its personality to play a specific role in their flock, thus creating an intricate social organization. The fact that sheep can recognize faces even from the past attests to their social intelligence.

For example, ewes have an impeccable sensitivity to other sheep’s faces, especially lambs. They are able to discern their lamb’s needs by just looking at its face, thus helping them raise their young ones properly by attending to their needs accordingly.

Besides recognizing the faces of other sheep, these animals can also recognize human faces and differentiate different emotions. A sheep can distinguish various facial expressions such as anger, sadness, and happiness.


The notion that sheep are dumb animals is completely bonkers because these beautiful animals have keen instincts and super social intelligence. However, they are not the most intelligent animals, with goats ranking higher. The traits possessed by each animal are well-curated to aid their survival. For instance, sheep flock together because numbers improve their safety.


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