The Sun wrote
Sheep ... only ate grass before.
By ROBIN PERRIE FLESH-eating killer sheep have been found living on a remote moor. Until now
sheep were thought to eat only grass. But bird expert Dr. Niall Burton watched in
horror as one bloodthirsty woolly fiend pounced on a baby grouse and munched it.
Eerily, the attack came three miles from the spot where a flock of sheep pushed
a woman to her death off a cliff. Dr Burton described in the journal of British
Birds how he came across a family of eight grouse chicks foraging in the heather
on Muggleswick Common near Stanhope in Weardale, Co Durham. Suddenly one of
three sheep nearby 'ran forward, picked up a chick and ate it whole.' He went
on: 'The alarmed female grouse quickly removed her remaining chicks. 'But the
sheep was only prevented from taking a second chick by my intervention.'
Dr Burton believes the moorland sheep have turned to meat to compensate for
missing nutrients in their diet ' possibly calcium. They satisfy their lust for
blood by scoffing chicks of ground nesting birds. Flocks of killer sheep have
also been reported in other parts of Britain. Glasgow University's Dr Bob
Furness told of seeing sheep eating live tern and skua chicks on Foula,
Farmer's wife Betty Stobbs, 61, died in 1999 when she was mobbed by hungry sheep
as she went to feed them. The mother-of-one was riding an off-road quad bike.
She plunged over the edge of Ashes Quarry in Stanhope and died at the scene. A
witness said: 'If you've got about 40 of the things rushing at you, it's such a
Von: AdamMacph@aol.com Gesendet: Freitag, 22. Februar
2002 23:35 An:
Betreff: Bird-Eating Sheep
How are you? Regarding your post about the sheep:- ( BTW This is not exactly the land of
sheep. They're safe enough here. ) I think it's better to send this off-list in case I get shit on from a great
height for sending off-topic posts via the list.
I've never actually seen a sheep kill a bird, but I've heard mention of it. I'm
sure there's truth in the story but at the same time the Sun newspaper has
always been noted for sensationalism, nudity and smut, so don't take it too
Most of the sheep that you and I are likely to be familiar with are very 'man-made'
lumps of greasy mutton tottering about in fields of lush grass and barely able
to keep themselves alive without a great deal of help from man.
But there are some of the old, old breeds still to be found here and there and
they're totally different animals. Much smaller and hardier, probably originally
kept as much for their wool and skins as for their meat. I'm sure they would eat
just about anything edible that comes their way.
You've probably seen Soay sheep, an old island breed from Scotland. All sorts of
black and white markings and often with four horns. Almost more like a goat than
a sheep. They're usually kept just as an interest or for show.
There is a flock of a very old breed of sheep on the Orkney island of Ronaldsay.
The island is surrounded by a stone wall along the shoreline and the sheep spend
their entire time on the foreshore where they have really very little grass and
they practically live on the seaweed. I don't think they want to eat grass, it's
out of choice that they live on seaweed.
( BTW - There's also a small island in the Orkney group which was evacuated a
long time ago - I believe about 1930 or so - and a herd of cattle were left on
it and have now reverted to a completely Wild state. No, I don't think you would
get shooting them. )
You'll probably know the Orkney islands are the small group of islands at the
north tip of the Scottish mainland. The Shetland islands, also Scottish, are
further north. I was born and brought up there.
Shetland also has its native sheep, small hardy animals that can survive in very
harsh and barren conditions without any help from man. I have seen these eating
seaweed. The dried seaweed you will find lying about on beaches. Apparently they
get some minerals from it. I've also seen some chewing on birds feathers. As I
said, I've never seen one actually taking a live bird, but I wouldn't be the
least bit surprised if they did. They must know that there's something there
that is of benefit to them.
Centuries ago both these island groups were settled by the Norsemen and the
local breeds of sheep are probably Scandinavian in origin. The islands were
handed over to Scotland in 1472, but the islanders always consider themselves
much more Scandinavian than Scots.
That reference in the article about Foula in Shetland. That is a little island
which lies about twenty miles out to the west of the main group. It has a
population of about 50 people and must be about the most isolated community in
Europe. I remember about fifty years ago they were frequently cut off from the
rest of the world by bad weather in the winters, regularly for spells of up to
about sixty days at a time and IIRC sometimes even longer.
The story about the sheep shoving the woman over a cliff seems to be trying to
make it sound as though they did it deliberately. If a flock of sheep are in the
habit of being fed, then when they see someone coming to feed them they'll
surround that person, pushing and shoving to get at the food and that is no
doubt what happened there. Just an unfortunate accident
As I said, I've no doubt that sheep will occasionally eat birds, but I don't
think it has anything to do with a bloodlust. Maybe it has something to do with
the feathers rather than the flesh of the bird, and with chicks I would think it
would have to be. Probably some instinct that tells them that it contains
something of benefit to them. I suppose it's something like a dog killing and
eating a rabbit. He will always eat the half digested grass from the stomach.
You wouldn't think that a dog would be particularly interested in grass, but
apparently there is something in the stomach contents that is of benefit to the
dog's digestive system.
Funny thing nature.
thank you very much about your Information about Sheep's
behaviour and the Remark about the Sun. Visiting Peter Jackson in Scotland in
Spring 2000, I saw quit many Sheep there. The finest Thing to see, from a
Hunter's Eye, were the well trained Farm dogs, to help the Farmers to manoeuvre
the Sheep from one Green to the other along Roads. Mostly the Farmer sat on his
Truck, leaving the running to the Dogs, those very well kept enormous Sheep
masses on Track. So those Dogs were perfectly trained. Nice to see!
One Thong most Folks forget, is, also Grass grazing
Animals like Sheep need Protein. Usually they eat it not directly, but feed
their inner Bacteria in their Stomach, that can use Cellulose to feed, and then
subsequently are digested by the Sheep. So these Bacteria live all their Live,
being fed by their Host, only to be later on be eaten by their same Host,
further down the Pipe.
So all Grazers can digest Proteins. That was on Reason why
they sometimes are fed with Animal leftovers. Unless that Stuff has been
properly heated under Pressure for some Time in an Autoclave (Steam pressure
cooker), mostly 10 Minutes at 140°C overheated Steam, the Procedure risks
Infections, as the Grazers not normally eat Meat.
Therefore the Sun article struck me like a Lightning, as I
never noticed such Behaviour before.