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The mystery of the sheep who walked in a circle for days might have been solved

Indy 100 logo Indy 100 22/11/2022 Becca Monaghan

The mystery of the circling sheep may have been solved.

Last week, dozens of sheep were spotted walking in a near-perfect circle for 12 consecutive days. The baffling footage, taken in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, was soon shared to social media, racking up millions of views in the process.

The sheep owner, Ms Miao, told the Metro it started off with a few sheep before the whole flock joined. Even when gaps emerged, the sheep continued to circle.

Now, Matt Bell, a professor at the Department of Agriculture at Hartpury University in Gloucester, has stepped in and offered his suggestions for their bizarre behaviour.

Speaking to Newsweek, he theorised: "It looks like the sheep are in the pen for long periods, and this might lead to stereotypic behaviour, with the repeated circling due to frustration about being in the pen and limited."

Bell added: "Then the other sheep join, as they are flock animals, and bond or join their friends."

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, sheep generally act in flocks to "protect individuals from predators."

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Others have speculated that the sheep's behaviour could be caused by a bacterial disease called Listeriosis – despite the Chinese state-run outlet, People's Daily, saying they were in good health.

Listeriosis, also known as "circling disease", is caused by eating contaminated food. Its symptoms include staggering, convulsions, head tilt and circling, according to Agriculture Victoria.

The disease can cause death, which usually occurs within 48 hours. However, the sheep were still going strong for 12 days straight in their circle, so doesn't explicitly explain their behaviour.

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