A few days ago, we were talking about the mystery of the flock of sheep that has been going around in circles for several weeks in China. An agricultural expert may have found the reason for this mysterious infinite round. According to him, the animals would be frustrated by their confinement, which would generate stereotypical behavior in them.
A very surprising phenomenon
On November 16, 2022, the Chinese media People’s Daily posted a video on Twitter which highlighted a very curious phenomenon taking place in Inner Mongolia (China). On the images, it was possible to observe for about twenty seconds part of a flock of sheep turning in a circle, and this, for an unknown reason. Quickly, sometimes eccentric theories appeared on the web. However, one explanation in particular could potentially shed light on this mystery.
Indeed, some observers have mentioned a disease affecting ruminants and which would result from the ingestion of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes: listeriosis. The latter causes nervous symptoms (especially in sheep) and above all, fatal encephalitis in many cases.
However, affected individuals generally lose their lives between one and four days after the onset of symptoms. However, the sheep in the Chinese flock were all in good health and had been walking in circles for at least a dozen days. Thus, the theory was quickly invalidated.
Behavior caused by stress
Professor in the Department of Agriculture at Hartpury University in Gloucester (United Kingdom), Matt Bell delivered his theory in a Newsweek article which was also relayed on Twitter (see below). He thinks that the behavior of the sheep would have for origin the stress caused by the confinement in a too narrow pen during a long period. According to Matt Bell, this stress could lead to stereotyped behavior (in this case repeated walking).
Meanwhile, herd owner Ms. Miao said that only a few sheep started walking in a circle at first and the rest of the herd gradually joined them. Matt Bell explains the enlargement of the rows of sheep walking in a circle by the fact that they are herd animals which are therefore used to joining and following their fellow creatures.