Despite their placid, even timid appearance, an encounter with a wild sheep can be terrifying, particularly for people who’ve never seen one before. Whilst lambs are cute, especially when they boing around a field, fully grown sheep often have a menacing edge to them. Their eyes for example have a demonic look, so being stared down by a sheep can cause the unwary Lake District visitor to panic.
If you’re unfortunate enough to stray off the beaten path, and find yourself confronted by a sheep, there are a number of things that you can do to maximise your chances of survival. Here’s our top 9 tips.
1) Avoid eye contact. A mature sheep will see this a a challenge to their authority and their territory. Recognise that you’re transgressing on their patch. Avert your eyes and look away and slightly downwards.
2) Always traverse a field with sheep in it on the highest ground possible. There are two reasons for this; a) Sheep typically attack prey within 20 yards of them. They run out of puff however on gradients, so you’re safer on higher ground. b) Numerous studies have shown that the normally vicious sheep will remain docile if it has to look upwards at potential victims.
3) Never, ever, place yourself between a sheep and it’s young. A young sheep, called a lamb, is easily spooked and older sheep will attack without thought in order to protect them against a perceived threat.
4) Do not wear brightly coloured clothing or bling in the prescence of sheep. All ruminates become over excited by either and are likely to become unpredictable at best.
5) The majority of sheep are members of the secret order of Artiodactyla. Some of their rituals are known to a handful of researchers who for centuries have warned people about this dangerous cult. The exception are the black sheep. There are no known cases of black sheep attacking humans.
6) Sheep attack in packs. You might think that you’re being confronted by a solitary sheep, but rest assured, the pack will be watching to see how you react to the encounter. Try not to be scared. Sheep can smell fear and are triggered to become aggressive when they smell it.
7) If the worst happens and you’re cornered by one of these vicious predators you have a split second to react. Try to make yourself look as large as possible by standing on your tiptoes and raising your arms above your head. Shout loudly, but do not shout “mint sauce”. All Lake District sheep have heard this threat before and are now immune to it.
8) If attacked, put a plaster on the wound. Do not call mountain rescue as you may divert their resources from people in genuine trouble.
9) The only thing that sheep are scared of is dogs. I don’t care if your dog is normally well behaved and it’s nice to let him off the lead in the countryside. Keep your dog on a lead. They like to chase sheep and often worry them to death.