bottle feeding a lamb

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

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Many consider sheep to be good potential pets because they’re docile and rarely aggressive. That said, the response to petting varies among sheep. Do sheep like to be petted? Sheep that are familiar to people enjoy being petted, whereas sheep that aren’t used to being around humans don’t like petting.

Instead, they might fight or flee. Sheep might react favorably or wildly when approached by strangers, depending on their level of socialization with people.

Is it Easy to Pet Sheep?

Despite being docile, sheep aren’t easy to pet as cats, dogs, and sometimes goats. Middle Easterners domesticated sheep an estimated 10,000 years ago.

Sheep originated from the mouflon, a wild ancestor who would flee whenever danger was looming. Modern sheep behave similarly. If you try to dose them with a dewormer or trim their hooves, they’re likely to run, making it quite challenging to pet the animals.

Moreover, sheep have a natural flocking instinct. Some breeds exhibit this property more prevalently than others, but it’s common across the entire species.

Studies show that sheep feel stressed unless kept in a flock of at least three animals, ruling out the possibility of petting one animal.

bottle feeding a lamb

Why Do People Pet Sheep?

The following are the top reasons why people pet sheep.

Sheep are Affectionate

Can sheep be affectionate? do sheep feel affection? Yes, sheep are relatively affectionate animals. Some enjoy being around people, with some liking human cuddling and touching. Lambs are particularly friendly, making them ideal pets for kids.

Sheep are Trainable

Do you know that you can train your sheep to recognize faces? Despite the assumption that sheep are dim-witted, they’re smart animals with excellent memory. You can use food as a training aid because sheep love eating. 

READ ALSO: Do Sheep Recognize Their Owners?

Sheep Tend to Your Lawn

You may not want people to walk on your grass, but you can occasionally allow your sheep to graze on it. Sheep are efficient lawnmowers that save you the time and money of using gas-powered equipment to cut grass.

What To Bear In Mind Before Touching Sheep

Here are the factors to consider before petting sheep.


The age of an animal determines the ease of petting. For instance, you might want to adopt an orphaned lamb.

Although it takes a lot of effort to raise a young sheep, it grows as a pet from a tender age. It gets used to the human touch and attention.

To ensure healthy growth, you’ll have to provide bottled milk every three to four hours for the first eight weeks of the lamb’s life. Moreover, you’ll have to house the young sheep to keep them warm.

On the other hand, adult sheep can weigh up to 150 lbs. (68 kg). They need more food than lambs, preferably an open grazing field or hay if you have a small flock.

You must also supply plenty of fresh water and install protective features against predators like wild dogs, coyotes, and wolves. Adult sheep require regular health checkups, hoof trimming, and deworming.


Aggression determines how easy or difficult it is to pet an animal. If you’re looking to pet sheep, choose ewes or wethers (castrated males).

It’s wise to steer away from rams, as they have a lot of testosterone, which sometimes makes them overly aggressive and difficult to bond with humans.

It also helps to choose a polled breed (born without horns) or an animal dehorned after birth. Horns are dangerous, as they can inflict injury on you and other animals. Horned sheep are also more likely to get stuck on fences and other objects.


Some breeds make better pets than others. Generally, smaller breeds are easier to handle than larger ones. For instance, the Babydoll Southdown is a small breed famous for its happy little face that resembles dolls.

Besides being good at disposition, it’s an efficient lawnmower that cuts down every blade of grass in your yard.

Hair quality also varies across breeds. Sheep with poor hair quality require frequent shearing, giving you a hard time petting. Also, some haired sheep have horns.

READ ALSO: Babydoll Sheep Breed: Information, Behavior, and Care

How to Raise Sheep Who Enjoy Being Pets

The best way to raise sheep that like being petted is to do it yourself. For example, if you have a lamb, it’s best to practice bottle feeding.

This is a sure way of becoming its favorite – even after it matures into adulthood, it will still consider you, its mother.

However, limiting the number of lambs you pet at a given time is wise. The recommended number is one to two young sheep.

It’s easier to take care of fewer lambs, ensuring they grow healthy and disease-free. Tending for a few pets also works well for your memory.

When feeding the lambs, don’t forget to hold and cuddle. This makes them accustomed to human attention and physical touch, ensuring they’ll remain great pets throughout their lives.

If you can’t pet a lamb, you can still keep a mature animal as a pet. However, you’ll need to be patient until the sheep learns to be around you. Remember, it’s natural for sheep to fight or flee from anything they deem dangerous and unfamiliar.

do sheep like to be pet

What If My Sheep Don’t Like to Be Petted?

As mentioned earlier, sheep that aren’t accustomed to human attention and touch don’t make great pets. When they see you, they’re likely to fight or flee. In most cases, they opt to escape since humans are much larger than them.

Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to get close to sheep that aren’t accustomed to people. This mostly happens when you approach them stealthily. Once they notice you, there are likely to run. Can you pet such sheep? Yes, but it’ll take time.

Some sheep don’t like being touched; despite being raised around people. This mostly happens when the animals are used to grazing and rarely make close contact with their handlers.

Final Words

Do sheep like to be petted? Well, like most animals, the growing environment determines the ease or difficulty of petting sheep. It’s easier to pet lambs and animals raised around humans. Polled breeds, ewes, and wethers also give you an easier time than the overly aggressive rams.

If you want to pet sheep, go for an orphan lamb. After a few bottle-feeding sessions, it will adore and recognize you as its favorite, a relationship that continues into adulthood.


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