sheep following each other

Why Do Sheep Follow Each Other? (5 Things To Know!)

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As a farmer, you’ve probably wondered why do sheep follow each other. Is it an instinct or an acquired behavior? It’s a fascinating thing about sheep. Whether approached by a human shepherd or by predators, these animals flock. But why?

Sheep follow each other because they have strong flocking instincts. They are herd animals that socially look out for each other. Their flock mentality helps protect them from predators. A predator is unlikely to attack a flock of sheep, whereas a lone sheep is likelier to get attacked.

sheep following each other

Why Do Sheep Follow Each Other? (Explained Further!)

Here are detailed reasons why sheep will follow each other in a line.

A sense of security

Sheep are a target of many predators because of their poor defensive mechanisms. For this reason, a sense of security is the top priority for these animals. Being together makes sheep feel more secure and safer from potential predators.

Flocking helps sheep fight against predators. Although sheep are mainly docile, predators are less likely to attack a group.

This particularly applies to smaller predators like wild dogs and coyotes, although it might be ineffective against wolves, who attack in packs.

The sense of security resulting from together applying everywhere, including in barns. While confinement protects from predators, sheep still choose to flock. It’s an inherent behavior, regardless of the environment.

READ ALSO: Do Wolves Kill and Eat Sheep?

Running from danger

Sheep feel insecure when alone and run when fleeing from danger. Running is the first response when sheep face dangerous situations.

When one animal in the group notices something unusual, it runs, and the rest follow. The danger can be real, like a predator, or something confusing, like a gust carrying leaves and other debris.

Regardless of the ‘realness’ of the perceived dangerous situation, the sheep will flee until they reach a safe distance.

Searching for food

Sheep follow each other to search for food and water. When a flock member finds a good grazing field, the rest will follow suit.

The same applies when a shepherd approaches their flock with food. Sheep are intelligent, and they quickly associate human presence with food.

For instance, if you use a tractor to deliver hay, they will come closer immediately after they hear the tractor sounds.

During breeding, sheep will follow each other

Sometimes, you will notice a few flock members following each other while others remain still. The few can be ewes and rams readying for the breeding season.

Small groups of sheep follow each other during the mating season. Rams look around for ewes in heat and ready for breeding, and vice versa.

Usually, the bigger, more assertive males dominate the feebler ones during mating. They use their strength to overpower and mate with more ewes.

Why do sheep follow each other in a line

Repetitive Daily Behavior

Sheep also follow each other because they have a cyclical behavioral pattern. If you graze them in open fields, you will notice they use the same path daily. While in the area, they tend to relax at specific spots.

Why Livestock Move as Groups

The collective motion of most livestock fascinates many scientists. Many studies described flocking as organized, with flock members mimicking others in the group to achieve a coordinated movement. However, this doesn’t consider the hierarchical structure observed by most animals, where the leader directs the rest.

New research suggests that sheep achieve collective intelligence by alternating between leadership and follower roles within their flock. Most gregarious animals (like sheep) achieve collective motion continually – it occurs in episodes, with occasional interruptions when feeding or resting.

However, the groups seem to be constantly on the move. It’s also assumed that the flock members negotiate the direction of movement.

After assessing the actions of different groups of sheep, the researchers established the animals usually follow the leader’s direction.

However, the position is often passed to different flock members, mostly rams. This means a leader in the morning might be a follower at noon, and so on.

If the temporal leader has important knowledge to help the flock, such as the way out of a confined area or a food source, the group members will follow him without question.

However, this ‘leadership’ ceases to exist once the leader accomplishes their task. Another member takes over from there.

The constant alteration of leaders allows most of the flock members to acquire knowledge. Over time, this results in information pooling and collective intelligence.

The research mentioned above shows that animal behaviors like flocking and following each other combine democratic and hierarchical organization. It also highlights the intelligence of sheep, although they appear dumb.

FAQ’s About Sheep Following Each Other

1.     Do sheep follow each other blindly?

Sheep follow each other when a flock member leads the way to something relevant. If a ram shows the way out of a maze, the rest will follow. While this behavior is mostly beneficial, it sometimes results in trouble if the leader is wrong. For example, in 2005, a sheep jumped off a cliff and 1500 others followed and died.

2.     Do sheep follow familiar people?

Sheep are intelligent and associate faces with particular things. If a shepherd provides food regularly, they will follow him whenever he is around. This article explains further on whether sheep can recognize familiar people.

3.     Do sheep recognize voices?

Like faces, sheep associate specific voices with certain instances. Therefore, they are likely to move towards friendly voices. However, unexpected and loud sounds scare sheep.

4.     How do sheep organize themselves?

Mature males usually fight each other to establish social rank and breeding privileges. This mostly happens during the mating season. Besides that, sheep alternate their ‘leadership’ as explained earlier.


Sheep follow each other in the search for food, fleeing from danger, or protecting themselves against predators. Although they usually follow a ‘leader,’ it’s never one animal – rather, flock members alternate between being followers and leading. This alternation improves their collective intelligence, enabling them to seemingly behave as one.


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