Sheep are thought of as docile, calm, gentle animals. Generally, they are, but as with any species, a sheep can become aggressive. Many people are not intimidated by sheep, but a charging sheep should not be taken lightly. They can cause significant blunt-force trauma to the human body. Knowing what to do if a dairy sheep charges you is critical.
Do not try to run if a sheep charges you. Make yourself large by waving your arms and shouting loudly. Prevent charges by avoiding situations that threaten the sheep or lambs.Use correct equipment to manage sheep to avoid contact with aggressive sheep. Back away slowly if a sheep threatens you.
Most people are surprised when sheep charge them. They do not expect sheep to be aggressive and are caught unawares.
What To Do If A Dairy Sheep Charges You?
If a dairy sheep charges you, do not turn your back or attempt to run away. If your back is exposed, the sheep can hit the back of your knees or legs, causing you to collapse.
Turn and face the sheep, make yourself as big as possible, shout with a deep pitch, and wave your arms at your side. This may make you seem larger, and it may deter the sheep. Be sure to act very aggressively to intimidate the sheep.
If the sheep continues to charge, you can sidestep it as it gets to you. Grab the sheep by the horns, ears, or neck wool and twist sharply to flip the sheep onto its side. You can also grab a back leg, flip the sheep, and then put weight on it to keep it down.
Flipping the sheep takes strength and courage, but it can be done. This method deters sheep that keep coming back to charge repeatedly.
If you are not strong enough to flip the sheep, throw your shirt over the sheep's face. The sheep will be temporarily blind, giving you a chance to get away. You can hit the sheep on the face around the eyes with your hand or a stick.
Shouting can draw the attention of other people that can help you.
How To Prevent A Dairy Sheep Charging You?
Dairy sheep are not usually aggressive. The ewes are used to being handled for milking and have become human-friendly. Despite this, ewes can become aggressive when they have lambs, but it is unusual.
Dairy rams may be more aggressive, which can worsen if the ram is hand-reared. Rams that were fed by people, have a mistaken identity and think of people as part of their flock. As they become sexually mature, they may regard people as competition for their status as herd rams.
Prevent attacks by ewes by avoiding positioning yourself between the ewe and her lambs. Do not behave in a way that threatens the lamb. If you need to handle the lamb, try to have a second person watch the ewe while you work on the lamb. This is especially important if the ewe has a history of aggression at lambing.
Sheep have a flight zone similar to a human's personal space. If you stay out of the flight zone, the sheep is comfortable and does not feel threatened. However, if you enter the flight zone, the sheep is anxious and may decide to attack.
Generally, flight zones in dairy animals are smaller than in meat sheep. For example, a ewe used to being milked will have a flight zone of around two meters. The Rams are not handled as much and may have a bigger flight zone.
If you need to approach the sheep, watch its body language carefully to spot signs of impending aggression. If the sheep shows signs of being uncomfortable, turn sideways to minimize your size and threat. Back away slowly and avoid startling the sheep. Do not shout or make a noise in this situation, as it may trigger the sheep to charge.
Can A Dairy Sheep Kill You?
Fatalities from sheep attacks are rare but sometimes occur. For example, in 2021, a 73-year-old volunteer was feeding sheep at a Massachusetts therapy center. The sheep attacked, and she died from cardiac arrest.
A ram killed his 83-year-old owner n 2015, and in 2019 another ram killed a 73-year-old man. In addition, a 94-year-old man in France was killed by sheep while taking his daily walk.
Adult sheep can weigh between 150 pounds and 350 pounds. They can rapidly accelerate up to 25 miles per hour and turn quickly. The weight of the sheep and acceleration result in an impressive force localized onto the forehead or horns of the sheep.
A charging sheep can impact a person with enough force to break bones, which can cause internal bleeding and severe bruising. In addition, sheep with horns can cause penetrating wounds that may become infected by pathogens driven into the injury.
Most people survive sheep attacks, but the elderly and small children are particularly vulnerable to severe injury. This is because children and older people lose their balance more quickly, and once they are down, they may be trampled, sustaining fatal head or chest injuries.
How To Manage An Aggressive Ram?
Aggressive rams should be managed by minimizing your contact with them using appropriate sheep-handling pens and chutes. Do not chase the flock, as the ram will defend it by charging you.
Well-trained sheepdogs can be especially useful in managing aggressive rams. The dogs are faster than people and can dodge out of the way if the ram charges. They also nip the ram to encourage it to move in a direction. If the ram is especially aggressive, it would be better to work with more than one dog.
If you need to go into a field with an aggressive ram, take a sack filled with heavy cloth, sand, or beans. The sack should be six to ten kilograms. If the ram charges you, use the sack to hit it in the face.
If a ram needs to be handled, blindfolding the ram can keep him calm while you carry out necessary procedures. If you need to work with the entire flock for routine worming or other procedures, it may be best to close the ram up in a separate enclosure.
Dairy sheep are not usually aggressive, but it is important to be alert whenever you work with them. Certain situations can trigger aggression in normally calm animals. Prevent attacks by being non-threatening and staying outside of their flight zones. Do not run if a dairy sheep charges you.