Flock of Mongolian sheep walk in a perfect circle for 12 days without stopping as mystery for unexplained behavior leads to influx of possible theories.
Could there be a legitimate reason? A flock of sheep has been observed walking in a circle for at least 12 days in Mongolia and nobody knows why.
China’s state-run news site People’s Daily tweeted security footage of the bizarre phenomenon after 10 days. Calling it the ‘great sheep mystery,’ the publication reported the sheep are healthy, but the reason for the ‘weird behavior is still a mystery.’
In the clip, hundreds of sheep are filmed marching clockwise in a near perfect circle on a farm. Some other sheep can be seen watching from outside the rotation while others at times stand motionless in the center.
At no point does it appear the sheep who are now well into day 12, stopping to rest, sleep or eat.
Metro reported the sheep owner, Ms. Miao, claimed a few sheep started before a whole flock joined. Ms. Miao has 34 sheep pens, but only pen 13 took up the strange 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
Waiting for Godot? (Marching to Godot)
One theory for the cause is listeriosis, a bacterial disease. The condition can cause circling because it inflames and sometimes paralyzes one side of the brain.
If the sheep are infected, which is associated with spoilt silage, the behavior wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, except for one major factor. According to The Merck Manual, in sheep and goats with listeriosis, death usually occurs within 24 to 48 hours of symptoms appearing.
‘Initially, affected animals are anorectic, depressed, and disoriented. They may propel themselves into corners, lean against stationary objects, or circle toward the affected side,’ according to the Merck Manual.
12 days in and going on to the 13th day the flock of sheep show no signs of stopping their march. But march to where? And for how long more?
Social media responds
Social media perplexed by the mystery have since posited a variety of possible reasons for the sheep’s unexplained behavior.
Wrote one user: ‘Maybe they are in migration mode but they couldn’t because they are in a cage?’
Posted another: ‘I think it has to do with them sensing frequency changes but from where and why are only some effected.’
Wrote another: ‘Sheep have a strong instinct to follow the sheep in front of them. When one sheep decides to go somewhere, the rest of the flock usually follows, even if it is not a good “decision.” This instinct is “hard-wired” into sheep. It’s not something they “think” about.’
And then there was this response that particularly caught this author’s attention: ‘At least 97% of humans have been walking around in circles for their whole lives. Most are healthy and the reason for this weird behaviour is still a mystery.’