Parturition Behavior

Stage 1: The ewe will graze and begin to become restless, will paw at the ground, and lick her udders. This can last from 2 to 6 hours.


Stage 2: This stage will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.  
This video captures the ewe after the water breaking, notice that the two front hooves are visible through the vagina.  The ewe is still restless, as the intensity and frequency of contractions are still only moderate.


The contractions become more intense and frequent, though the ewe remains restless.


At this point, the ewe rests briefly between contractions.


Stage 3: The ewe licks the lamb to remove blood and fluid  for protection from predators. This imprints the ewe’s scent onto the lamb, the primary identification between the ewe and lamb.


Protective Behavior 

When presented with a threat, the ewe will orient herself towards the threat, with the lamb behind her. She will challenging paw and advance towards the threat, even to the point of charging it.


Neonatal Behavior

Lambs are able to stand approximately thirty minutes after birth, and are able to nurse within an hour.


When first learning how to nurse, the lamb may confuse the teat-like tufts of wool for teats, and become discouraged.  When trying to nurse, the lamb will often nudge the mammary gland with its head, or paw at the dam.


Often, lambs will play together, jumping, frolicking, and mock fighting.   This is useful for developing muscles, coordination, and other skills they need to succeed as adults.


Lambs bleat to communicate with their dam, and are most often heard when presented with a stressor.


Dams may show favoritism to one lamb, singling out the other by not allowing it to nurse, or physically abusing it.


Flocking Behavior

Sheep have extremely limited means of defense when presented with a predator.  They rely on the one thing that they have-- the flocking instinct. The sheep will crowd together in a large group and orient their head away from the predator. When fleeing , the dominant sheep will lead them. This reduces the likelihood of being killed by a blow to the head or neck, whereas an attack on the flank would less likely be fatal. Sheep find safety in numbers since the predator will normally attack outliers. This instinct also accounts for a sheep's anxiety when alone.


Vocalization Behavior

As mentioned previously, sheep have a strong flocking behavior, and are extremely gregarious in nature. They also have an acute auditory sense.  Not only can they pinpoint sound with their ears, but they can even amplify it.  Their sounds are truly a unique language, and it is believed that sheep express stress by altering their tone instead of changing the pitch or intensity of their cry.

Vocalizations of a Herd

Under normal conditions:


In response to release to pasture:


Vocalizations of Isolated Individuals

Ewe isolated from herd


Ram isolated from herd


Vocalizations of Ewe and Lamb

Ewe and lamb while grazing


Ewe and lamb separated


Ewe and lamb reunited