Sheep survive in the wild by climbing obstacles and reaching places that no other predators can reach.
They also survive by staying in herds and protecting each other, while rams will defend the herd aggressively with their horns and their powerful charges and potential attackers.
Sheep are seen as an animal of prey. Even today, domestic sheep are often targeted by predators in many areas of the world, such as wolves and bears.
This creates a problem for farmers as they need to protect them. In the wild, sheep need to find their way of surviving as they defend themselves by hiding in unobtainable spots in the wild.
How do Wild Sheep Survive?
There are six breeds of wild sheep. These breeds have several features and adaptations that help them to survive:
1. Wild Sheep are Usually Larger
Wild sheep are slightly larger and more muscular than domesticated sheep. The largest breed of sheep, for example, is the Argali wild sheep of western East Asia.
This size allows them to defend themselves much better against potential predators such as eagles and small wolves who may be detered from attacking larger animals.
2. Wild Sheep have Larger Horns
While domesticated rams have horns, they often pale in comparison to the large horns of wild sheep. Famously, bighorn sheep have glorious large horns that they use in combat.
Even some wild ewes have horns, which they use for self-defence rather than fighting for dominance within the herd.
3. The Self-Shear!
Shearing is also an important task that humans do for sheep to prevent them from getting diseases. But in the wild, sheep have to do it on their own.
Wild sheep lose their wool by rubbing against trees and rocks. They need to lose wool as it gets warmer and to avoid potential infections that come with long wool.
4. They Live in Remote Alpine Areas
Sheep are also good climbers, so that allowed them to get away from their predators and hide. They hide both in high altitudes and on very steep mountain faces where no other sane animal would go!
This allows them to stay safe and avoid getting eaten by their predators, which is a useful technique in the wild.
Argali sheep, for example, live in climates up to 5,800 meters. In areas where Argali sheep don’t live high-up, they hide in the forests from human hunters.
Furthermore, several subspecies of the endangered Urial sheep are believed to be endangered because they have not learned to live in high-up remote areas.
How Do Sheep Survive in the Wild?
Sheep are often targeted by predators because they’re easy animals of prey, especially when alone. So they will group up in herds and the rams will protect the herd against potential predators.
Before sheep were domesticated, they were much more aggressive and wilder than they are nowadays.
Domestic sheep have gotten used to the protection that humans provide to them when they are penned in and safe. They get a feeling of safety by staying in their herd and being protected by the group and the shepherd.
But it wasn’t always like this.
Sheep used to fend for themselves much more in the past, especially thousands of years when they were still not domesticated.
A domestic sheep would probably struggle to survive on its own in the wild today, but there are still plenty of wild sheep out there that need to survive on their own.
In fact, the 6 remaining breeds of wild sheep are more defensive than domesticated sheep who are not scared of their human handlers.
Bighorn sheep are one such wild breed that needs to protect themselves in the wild. These sheep are often found in hardly accessible places, such as mountains and rocky areas where they climb rocks and other surfaces that other predators can’t reach. These sheep won’t rely on their herd as much, though.
Males (and even some females) have horns that they can use to protect themselves. Most wild sheep breeds have horns, which can come useful when they need to fend off their predators.
How Did Sheep Survive Before Humans?
Before humans domesticated sheep, they needed to survive on their own. They protected themselves with their horns and climbed difficult spots to keep away from predators.
They also got rid of their old wool on their own without the need of being sheared constantly by rubbing against rocks.
Sheep were domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. It is believed that sheep were much more aggressive and defensively-minded than they are today before they were domesticated.
This made it slightly easier for them to survive on their own.
Can Sheep Survive Without Humans?
It depends on the breed of the sheep. Wild sheep breeds would have no problems surviving without humans even today.
Domestic sheep breeds, on the other hand, would struggle to survive without humans in the long term because they’ve become so dependant on humans and have lost their defense skills.
Today, domestic sheep are very much used to humans and them taking care of their needs.
Humans provide them with safety, food, medications, shearing, and other potential necessities that sheep need to survive. Throughout evolution, they have become less used to surviving on their own.
However, sheep are much more sturdy than you might believe.
They are quite resourceful animals. They would still be able to find food without humans if they were left alone, and if they were in a herd, they would likely instantly seek mountains for protection.
But without the added protection of humans, the herd would likely take several casualties along the way.
Overall, sheep would still be able to survive without humans for some time, but over the long-term, they wouldn’t be able to reach the same age as they would with the protection of humans. Shearing would also become a problem, and the need for medications would also not be met without humans.
Sheep survive in the wild by relying on the herd and allowing the rams to protect the herd. Rams have horns that they can use to protect themselves and the herd. Additionally, sheep will hide in inaccessible spots such as mountains and rocky areas to stay away from their predators in the wild.
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