China Is Baffled by These Sheep Who Were Walking in Circles For 10 Days
by Ashley Dreiling
A recent viral video shows a large herd of sheep mysteriously and endlessly walking around in a large circle captured at a farm in the Inner Mongolia region of Northern China. According to the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily, they’ve been circling for at least 10 days.
The video, shown in black-and-white CCTV footage (below), had the internet circulating wild rumors about the sheep’s behavior. While the usual apocalyptic made the rounds, others speculated that the herd may be infected by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.
This bug can cause listeriosis, nicknamed the “circling disease” because it can take root in the animal’s brain stem, paralyzing one side of the face which tilts the head at an angle and can result in the strange circling behavior.
The great sheep mystery! Hundreds of sheep walk in a circle for over 10 days in N China’s Inner Mongolia. The sheep are healthy and the reason for the weird behavior is still a mystery. pic.twitter.com/8Jg7yOPmGK
— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) November 16, 2022
However, experts have largely ruled out listeriosis.
“The way it usually manifests is not in half the flock – it’s sort of between 1 and 10 percent might be affected,” Andrew Fisher, a professor of cattle and sheep production medicine at the University of Melbourne, told ABC News.
Instead, some believe the sheep are exhibiting stereotypic behavior. This is a repeated behavior pattern with no obvious goal or incentive, usually due to stress, frustration, or boredom.
The theory is that the sheep were in the same pen for a long period of time. After a while, boredom and frustration set in, causing some to repeatedly circle the space. And because sheep are herd animals, others join in. Add a camera and ironically, the sheep’s boredom was their 15 minutes of fame.