How you can save a sheep’s life

...but it's important to raise the BAA!

Sheep don't sleep on their backs, so if you happen to see one in this position you should move fast. That sheep is close to death.

When you're training a sheepdog you can sometimes be surprised by a sheep's agility, but they aren't designed to lie on their backs, and they're not good at righting themselves.

A sheep with a heavy, possibly wet, fleece, or that is heavily pregnant or fat (resulting in a broad, flat back) is most at risk of becoming stuck if it rolls over.

It may have been resting, or it may have tried to scratch an itch, but it certainly won't have got itself into that position on purpose.

A sheep stuck on its back is vulnerable for a variety of reasons: not only is it easy prey for crows or badgers, but its own biology is against it.

In order to digest grass, sheep (and cows) have a four-chambered stomach. The largest chamber is the rumen, where the fibrous food ferments. Fermentation produces gas, and when the sheep is the wrong way up the gas can't escape.

The gas builds up, and causes pressure on the sheep's lungs until it simply can't breathe anymore.

The scenario of a combination of suffocation and predator attack is pretty grim, but it's easy to avoid. Keep aware for an upturned sheep when you're out and about, and act quickly if you see one. DO leave your dog at a distance from the sheep if you possibly can, and DON'T worry about taking hold of a good handful of fleece to get the sheep turned over. Whatever evolutionary advantages sheep might have, they don't have convenient handles!

Watch the video above, to find out how easy it is to rescue a sheep which is stranded on its back, then share this page so that others will see how to do it too.


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The Girls are growing fast

They have different personalities, but Maddie and Mew are in full agreement when it comes to sheep

Tricolour Border collie puppy standing in the sunshine
I know I look cute, but I'm actually in mid-bark

The Girls have attained the great age of five months and the honeymoon's over, so far as playing in the field is concerned.

When the dogs move out into the field the sheep (generally) retreat to a far corner, where they can watch the proceedings without attracting undue attention. Until now.

The sheep still head for their corner, but Mew and Maddie know exactly where they are, and undue attention is precisely what they have in mind.

Luckily, both puppies will come back when we call them. It isn't a problem if we're vigilant, but we're only fallible humans, and Mew and Maddie are experts at recognising and exploiting an opportunity.

Chihuahuas love to run free as much as any other breed
"Confidence is essential in a sheep dog" - now where have I heard that?

Of course, when this happens there's no point in getting cross (it's our fault, after all). We have to welcome the girls back and let them know how pleased we are, while making a mental note to pay more attention in future.

In everyone's defence, however, I don't think that we, or they, are entirely to blame.

If a Chihuahua shouts: "Last one to the sheep's a pussy cat!" it's a matter of collie honour to take him up on it!


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