June 18, 2005


‘Living With Sheep' (6/17/05, Valley News)

Some people say that sheep are dumb as dirt piles, but on a recent scorcher of a summer day, Chuck Wooster's flock had it made in the shade.

In the greater Upper Valley, humans were bustling about and sizzling like fried eggs.

Wooster's sheep were watching the pasture grow. They lay serenely, woolly little Buddhas under cover of a shelter similar to a carport, meditating on the taste of grass and waiting for a cloud to block the sun.

When the cloud came, they'd go out for a bite.

Until the cloud came, they were cooling their heels, or hooves.

Now it's true that they weren't discussing globalization or the impending Michael Jackson verdict, or anything that humans would say constitutes higher intelligence.

But on that day, they were chewing grass and humans were mowing lawns. The latter risked heat stroke -- so who is it, really, who's dumb?

Wooster defends sheep smarts in his new book, Living With Sheep, which promises in its subtitle to reveal Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Flock. A generous offering of color photographs, ranging from adorable to pastoral, are by Geoff Hansen of Tunbridge, who has done several books and is photo and graphics editor at the Valley News.

One of the first issues Wooster addresses is sheep-think. We are predators, he explains, and sheep are prey, and that affects everything about how we and they see the world. (And explains why we understand cat-and-dog behavior, that of our fellow predators, better.) “Their main deal is, they stick together,'' he said in a recent interview at his 100-acre farm in Hartford, where the flock currently includes 10 ewes, a ram and eight lambs.

That stick-to-itiveness makes a lone sheep look silly if it gets isolated from the flock and panics, Wooster said, and sheep don't take directions well. They move, en masse, “like a liquid,'’ said Wooster. “They’re amazingly good at it.’’

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2005 2:42 PM


Posted by: ghostcat at June 18, 2005 2:59 PM

Another feature of herds is that if a member gets sick or injured and can't keep up, it gets left behind. That lone sheep panics for a good reason, because it knows it's just become Coyote Chow.

Which might explain why those on the Left are so enamored of euthanasia, in that they see it as the normal, herdlike way of getting rid of the stragglers who are holding the human-herd back. (And themselves as the shepherd, who of course is not a sheep to be culled at some point., and is allowed to sheer the flock while living in something better than a barn.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 18, 2005 4:06 PM

Excellent analysis, Robert. Right on the mark.

Posted by: obc at June 19, 2005 12:11 AM