I have officially found the dumbest sheep ever.
Those of you who do not own sheep probably don’t get the full effect of this statement. Sheep are not inherently bright to begin with — in fact, one could say they are dull, dim bulbs or just plain stupid and you would be right. But after eight years of exhaustive research, I can tell you that even with in the sheep species, there are animals that push the average even lower.
I have seen sheep do some stupid things, but this year we have raised a lamb that will take the crown. I noticed that this lamb had the potential to be one of a kind and I hope once in a lifetime early on. I don’t know exactly when it started, but I remember going out one morning and hearing a lamb making a pitiful sound. It had bawled so much that it was hoarse.
I immediately rushed to the pen and climbed over the fence in search of the lamb that I surely knew was in dire danger. After a thorough search of the pen I found one pitiful lamb with its head through the panel. It must have been reaching for some tasty morsel of weed and wedged its head between the bars.
Once I located the source of the wailing, I became less worried. The lamb was in fine shape and the extraction was going to be easy. The squares on the fence are big enough that a full-grown ewe can reach through them and if she tilts her head right, she can remove it easily. The lamb in peril was only about 20 pounds, so it should be able to remove its own head. I had seen this before and after one rescue they usually figure it out and never have to be saved again.
I walked up to the lamb and she tried to get away from me by pushing against the fence. Remember, I said even the average sheep is not too smart, and this was an average response. It is much more difficult to pull a full-grown ewe out of the fence when she is pushing into it as hard as she can, and rams are almost impossible. That is why a few of my fences have larger holes where bolt cutters were used for the rescue. In any case, this extraction was a one-handed affair where I simply pulled the lamb out.
As soon as I had removed it from the fence, it returned to mama, who had been watching the whole operation nervously. Mother and baby were reunited, and the lamb was nursing furiously when I exited, feeling confident that it had learned its lesson and my mission was accomplished. Or at least that was what I thought.
That night as I was doing chores, I again heard a lamb crying forlornly and this time I made a little more leisurely trip to check it out. Sure enough, the same lamb was caught in pretty much the same place and it took the same slight effort to remove it. I decided it was a slow learner and that it just needed two lessons, it probably would never happen again. I was wrong.
Over the period of the next month, it was unusual to walk out down to the barn and not hear the lamb crying like it was in dire straits. If you did not know better, you would have thought the lamb was moments away from meeting its maker. Every one of us got very adept at removing the lamb from the fence and each time, it would run to the waiting mother and starting chowing down like there was no tomorrow.
We got quite creative at removing it, too. Isaac would send his dog up to it and the lamb would pull its head back on its own and run off. I even found out that a neighbor who drives through the yard to check cows had rescued it several times.
Eventually, we weaned our special lamb and it got even more frustrating. Once weaned, instead of running to mama, it would run to the other side of the pen and jam its head through another panel, bawl and wait to be rescued. The lamb currently weighs about 30 pounds, and it is going to be months before we can market it. On average, we probably remove it from a fence five to six times a day.
I know there are special sheep and goat panels with smaller holes, but they are a lot more expensive. I would also note that out of all the lambs from this year’s lamb crop, this is the only one that has ever gotten its head stuck in the fence. It is an award-winning, record, stupid sheep.
I am sure that the stupid in this lamb is genetic and that worries me. It is an ewe lamb and I am afraid that when we start picking replacement ewes out, we will select this one. You might ask why would I not write the number down and make sure that we don’t select it. My only answer is that the only thing dumber than a sheep is the person who owns it.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at email@example.com.