5 Interesting Facts About Lambs And Why They Should Stay Off Our Plates

May 24, 2024

Lambs are curious and playful creatures that wag their tails like dogs, snuggle like kittens, and remember human faces. Yet it’s still widely accepted around the world to eat baby lambs as young as six weeks old. Every year, millions of lambs and sheep are killed for their meat at various stages of their lives, but most are under age one. Sheep, like cats and dogs, can feel pain, be scared, are extremely intelligent, experience emotions, and have the desire to be loved. Keep reading to learn more fascinating facts about lambs, and then take action to stop their exploitation.

1. These Hooves Are Made For Walking

Unlike humans, lambs can actually walk a few minutes after birth. Newborn lambs get nudges and encouragement from their mamma as she washes them and they begin to nurse. Like other animal species, lambs still rely on their mothers for the first four to six months of their lives. Within 24 hours, lambs can take off on all fours and explore their surroundings. Sheep in the wild have been known to walk miles daily to forage for their favorite plants (they are herbivores) and can remember complex walking routes. Rescued sheep in sanctuaries also walk, explore, and eat at their leisure and can live between 10 and 12 years, with some domestic sheep living up to 20 years. But in captivity, sheep have very little room to walk and explore. Although sheep don’t wear boots, their hooves are made for walkin’, but most lambs on factory farms won’t get to walk for very long before they are killed. 

Need some good news? On Farm Sanctuary, rescued Evie the sheep recently gave birth to adorable twin lambs who are already running with friends and will live the rest of their lives in peace. Meanwhile, at Edgars Mission in Australia, Sally the sheep learned to walk again.

2. Don’t Underestimate Their Intelligence

    Sheep are very smart and gentle creatures with an excellent memory. They build friendships with other sheep and can recognize up to 50 other sheep faces as well as remember human faces. A study at the University of Cambridge, one of the world's leading academic centers in the UK, proved sheep can correctly identify faces and perform tasks.

     “We’ve shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys.”

    Sheep, like humans and other animal species, form meaningful and lasting bonds with each other. Sheep friendships start young, and Evie’s little lambs are already playing with other rescued lambs at the sanctuary. Sheep have even been known to stick up for each other in fights and grieve the loss of a friend. When kept on factory farms for their wool and skin, they become very sad and distressed when their friends are abused, hurt, and killed.

    Meet Regan the sheep who was rescued as a baby in 2021 at an Animal Save Italia vigil in honour of Canadian activist Regan Russell.

    3. Sheep Experience Multiple Emotions

      Lambs recognize each other by their bleats and communicate different emotions with vocalizations. They can also recognize facial expressions and experience happiness, fear, anger, rage, despair, and boredom. Eleanor, a rescued sheep at Edgars Mission that lost her babies, found love with an orphaned lamb named Ohio and experienced true happiness when becoming a mother and loving him as her own.

      A study in Animal Sentience explains that sheep“experience a wide range of emotions and that some of those responses are quite complex. Basic emotional valence (positive/negative) studies indicate that sheep express their internal subjective states through multiple behavioral and physiological changes.”

      When lambs see their friends and family, they often become so happy that they leap into the air with excitement, just like these rescued lambs who can’t stop jumping for joy at Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary.

      4. Counting Sheep Breeds Can Take Hours

        Next time you can’t fall asleep, try counting all 1000 breeds of sheep. You will surely drift off into a pleasant slumber just trying to remember all of them. Instead of typical curly wool, Najdi sheep have long, silky hair, and Racka sheep are special because both females and males grow long spiral-shaped horns. Fat-tailed sheep are common in Africa, and short-tailed sheep originated mainly from Northern Europe and Scandinavia. There are an estimated 60 breeds in the United States, including Hampshire, Southdown, Dorset, Suffolk, and Horned. These breeds are killed for their meat, and the Dorset is also abused on factory farms for their wool.

        Wool, like leather from cows and other animals, is not sustainable or eco-friendly and generates massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The Plant Based Treaty calls for an end to animal farms and slaughterhouses in order to save our Earth and outlines how animal agriculture ranks among the most significant human activities driving the climate crisis in the Safe and Just Report. The farming of sheep for their wool is among one of the worst environmental offenders on the market.

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        Santiago Animal Save rescued three-month-old lambs, Joaquín and Manuel, from an animal market in Chile.
        Their compassionate activism has spared Joaquín and Manuel from the horror of the slaughterhouse.

        5. Eyes On The Back Of Their Head

          Well not literally, but sheep have rectangular pupils that create an excellent and wide peripheral vision. This allows them to see almost everything around them without ever turning their heads. Impressive! When in the wild, this helps sheep be on the lookout for predators, even when they are grazing with their heads down.

          “The goat and sheep's eye is similar to a human eye, with a lens, cornea, iris and retina. A crucial difference though, is that the retina is shaped like a rectangle. This offers these ungulates massive peripheral vision, a panoramic field of 320-340 degrees! Ever Green

          In the wild, sheep are prey animals and easily frightened, but they flock together to stay safe. Over time, they have evolved not to easily show signs of suffering, such as what happens on factory farms when they are in pain or distress.

          If you want to help lambs, keep them and all animal products off your plate and enjoy tasty and healthy vegan alternatives. Don’t forget to sign the Plant Based Treaty which calls for redirecting our food system to plant based  and download their free vegan starter kit.

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          Download the plant-based starter guide.

          Everything you need to know in one short, simple, easy-to-read guide. Includes recipes, meal planners, nutritional information and handy tips to help you eat plant-based.

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          Written by Miriam Porter:

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