do sheep attack humans

Do Sheep Attack Humans?  (Things To Know!)

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Although they look calm and timid, sheep can attack human beings. However, such attacks are rare since the most likely reaction by sheep is keeping a distance or fleeing. So, with that in mind, do sheep attack humans? What can prompt sheep to attack you?

Why Do Sheep Attack People?

Rams are responsible for the majority of sheep attacks on human beings. Adult males tend to show more aggression when ready and want to breed.

If you provoke them, the most like reaction is a headbutt or being chased away from the target ewes. However, aggression levels vary in different breeds.

Besides headbutting, other aggression indicators include charging at smaller sheep, gurgling noises, nibbling, and pawing at the ground. But, again, some breeds exhibit these behaviors more frequently than others.

If your ram displays aggressive behavior, the best thing to do is to leave. The anger usually goes away after a short time. However, consider removing the animal from the flock if it becomes a habit.

Sometimes, ewes become aggressive to protect their young ones. This is a natural maternal instinct developed to protect lambs from predators and other potential threats. Avoid going too close to lambs in their mother’s presence, as this can evoke a violent reaction.

Sheep in open grass

Do Sheep Attack Humans? Things That Provoke Them

Sheep attacks on humans might be far between, but some things might make them more frequent. Here are some things that provoke sheep to attack people.

Loud Sounds

Loud noises make sheep uneasy, especially if they’re high-pitched. For instance, incessant dog barks and screams can cause sheep to flee or react defensively.

Sheep are so reactive to loud sounds that they’ll tilt their heads toward the sound’s origin immediately after they perceive it.

If you don’t want sheep to attack you, it’s best to keep sounds low. Ideally, you should maintain quietness around your animals.


Like most animals, sheep aren’t comfortable staying in confined areas for extended periods. For example, a sheep is likely to become aggressive if you lock it up for an entire day. When you open the enclosure, the first reaction will be attacking you to find a way out.

Always ensure you don’t get too close to sheep, especially in the barn. Leaving enough space makes the animals calm, as they don’t feel the need to defend themselves. Also, let them out on the field for a few hours to combat the risk of developed aggression.

Touching the Head

Sheep communicate through headbutts. When stamping authority, larger rams headbutt the inferior animals.

During playing and mating, headbutts are a common occurrence. For these reasons, you must avoid touching the sheep’s head.

Patting a sheep’s head elicits a negative reaction. Unlike cats and dogs that like being touched on the head, sheep don’t. Instead, it prompts headbutting.

It’s also advisable to avoid hitting rams on the head. Sheep have a sharp memory; they’ll get revenge by headbutting you, instantly or later.

READ ALSO: Do Sheep Like to Be Petted? What You Need To Know

Poor Eyesight

Sometimes, a sheep’s aggression might be a result of poor eyesight. Poor eyesight occurs due to aging, overgrown wool, and some diseases.

When sheep can’t see properly, they become warier in new surroundings. Combined with other provocations like loud sounds and confinement, poor eyesight can prompt sheep to attack humans.

do sheep attack humans

How to Survive a Sheep Attack

If your ram or ewe confronts, here are useful tips for avoiding serious injury.

Avoid eye contact

Rams perceive direct eye contact as a challenge to their authority. They also consider you a threat to the rest of their flock.

Since you’re the trespasser, looking sideways when confronted by an aggressive animal is advisable.

Stay on a high ground

Sheep get tired quickly when they run on hilly landscapes. First, they can hardly run beyond 20 yards if the ground isn’t flat.

Secondly, staying on the high ground means the animal looks upwards to you, which induces docility even in the most aggressive rams.

READ ALSO: How Fast Can A Sheep Run? (How Fast Exactly?

Avoid lambs

As mentioned earlier, ewes show aggression when a potential threat gets too close to their lambs. Therefore, if your female sheep have young ones, please avoid getting too close.

Avoid small spaces

Sheep feel the need to escape when confined to small spaces. The animal will use whatever means to get out, so always leave enough room to flee if you’re in a small room with sheep.

Face the Sheep

While approaching a large, 300 lb. ram seems suicidal, it can be the only way out sometimes. Remember, sheep fear human beings.

Once the animal starts retreating, approach its direction. Enlarge yourself by lifting your arms and standing on your tiptoes. This buys you the time to look for an escape route and flee.

FAQ’s About Sheep Attacking Humans

Why do sheep fear people?

Humans are predators. It’s natural for sheep to fear people because they perceive them as threatening their existence. However, they are friendly to familiar faces.

Can sheep hurt you?

Sheep can cause serious injury or even death. In the United Kingdom, more people die from ram attacks than bulls. Unlike cattle stomping with feet, rams use their heads, which can cause severe injury or fatalities.

How do you avoid sheep attacks?

The best way to avoid attacks is to maintain a safe distance from the sheep. Avoid rams during the mating season and ewes after giving birth. Aggression is at its peak during these periods.

Can you befriend sheep?

It’s easy to befriend young sheep. However, as they age, they learn to fear human beings. Start early if you want to put your sheep. The rams are best left alone because of their natural aggression.

What is the solution to aggression?

If a ram shows repeated aggression, removing it from your flock is best. Unfortunately, such behavior is genetic and isn’t easy to manage.

Final Words

Do sheep attack humans? Well, most sheep breeds are docile. However, loud sounds, confinement, touching, and poor eyesight can elicit a confrontation between animals and their handler. If a sheep attacks you, avoid eye contact and seek an escape route. In most cases, the anger cools off after a few minutes.


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