Lori Marino and Debra Merskin, Intelligence, complexity, and individuality in sheep


Sheep are particularly well-equipped with the cognitive and emotional skills appropriate to their phenotype and natural environment. These include spatial memory, the benefits of safety in numbers, and the ability to recognise special individuals in large flocks by sight and by sound. Marino & Merskin’s target article reviews convincing evidence on whether sheep are more or less clever than other mammalian species. Sheep are very good at being sheep. But sentient animals do not just live in the present. Their emotional state is not simply dictated by events of the moment. If they learn, they can cope; if not, they can experience chronic, non-adaptive stress. This is the big welfare problem.

Author Biography

John Webster is a veterinarian and Emeritus Professor of Animal Husbandry at the University of Bristol, UK. His early years were mostly concerned with the nutrition and environmental physiology of ruminants. More recently he took the first steps to establish a group now internationally recognised as the Bristol Centre for Animal Behaviour and Welfare. His most memorable contribution to the animal welfare debate has been the exposition of the concept of the ‘Five Freedoms’. Website