Those of us who raise Icelandic sheep have always known that the breed is an
intelligent breed, and that within our breed are even smarter sheep - which are
sheep! magazine published a piece called "Sheep Smarts Proven" in their
November/December 2005 issue (page 49).
"An Australian researcher has proven that sheep are smart -- and some are
smarter than others."
Sixty merino sheep in Australia were tested by putting them through a complex
maze. They were placed in a maze that measured 18 meters by 8 and their
flock mates were placed in sight at the end of the maze. The sheep were able to
navigate the maze and got better each time they did.
Researcher Caroline Lee said that sheep on average took two minutes on the
first day and were down to around 30 seconds on the third day.
"We measured them six weeks later and found that they had retained their
memory and were at a similar level to the previous test," she said.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is planning
to screen 600 more sheep of differing breeds to determine whether they have a
"smart gene" or genes in a project that could take up to five years.
Lee said that the ability to genetically select flocks of smart sheep was
important as farming became more technologically advanced with farmers using
such things as automated scales that sheep need to walk across.
"Smarter sheep are more able to deal with the new systems," Lee said.