Do Horses Get Along With Sheep?
If you’re looking for a companion for your horse, or you’re uncertain if it’s safe to keep your horses and sheep in the same field, you might be wondering if horses get along with sheep. As someone that plans on owning lots of livestock in the future, here’s what I’ve learned on the subject.
Do horses get along with sheep? In general, horses and sheep get along well with each other once they’ve had time to get used to one another. Horses are fight or flight animals, and if a sheep is introduced too quickly, they can view it as a threat and attack it. However, if introduced correctly, many horse and sheep owners report that they get along great.
Before you purchase a horse and sheep and keep them together, it’s important that you’re familiar with the specific health and care requirements they both have, as well as some additional safety concerns about keeping horses and sheep together.
Things to Know Before Keeping Horses and Sheep Together
Sheep Might Be Able to Escape Your Normal Horse Fences
If you’re planning on getting a sheep to serve as a companion for your horse, you’ll first want to ensure that you have sufficient fencing to keep them contained. Because of their size difference, a fence that sufficiently contains horses might not be enough to keep sheep contained.
A relatively easy fix is to add mesh or something comparable to your current horse fences to fill in the gaps that might otherwise serve as an escape route for sheep. Even if you feel that you’ve properly prepared your fencing, keep a close eye on your sheep over the first few weeks. Just like goats, sheep are great at escaping so you should always be ready to retrieve them if need be before any harm can come to them.
Horses Can Be Afraid of Sheep So Use Caution
If you own horses, then you’re probably well aware of how easy it can be to frighten them. Things like plastic bags, odd shadows, or foreign sounds can be all it takes to spoke them.
Frightened horses are a danger to both themselves and any other creatures in their vicinity. When they’re frightened, they’re prone to acting recklessly. Whether that be by bolting straight into a fence and injuring themselves (this happened to one of my horses,) or by attacking whatever is frightening them.
While most horse owners report that their horses and sheep get along fine in the long run, how you introduce your horse to sheep for the first time is very important. There have been reports of horses attacking and even killing sheep, so here are a few quick tips for making safe introductions.
- Start slowly. Introduce the animals to each other with a fence between them.
- Allow your horse to smell the sheep from the other side of the fence.
- Continue bringing your horse and sheep into each other’s presence until they both seem comfortable with each other before placing them in an open area together.
Once you’ve successfully combined your horse and sheep in an open area, pay close attention over the coming weeks to ensure there aren’t any issues. If you feed your sheep or horse any supplements or grains, it’s important that you separate them from each other while doing so in order to prevent fights.
Horses and Sheep Parasites and Diseases
Before combining any type of livestock, one of the most important things to research is whether or not the animals are known to cause any type of sickness or diseases in each other, or if their parasites can be transferred between species.
Thankfully, horses and sheep don’t share any of the same parasites. When it comes to diseases, the good news is that most of them are animal-specific, and the ones that aren’t are fairly uncommon. However, I’m not a trained veterinarian so don’t take my advice as the final word on the subject. Always check with a vet for questions concerning the health of your animals!
Your Horse’s Food Can Be Toxic For Sheep
Something very important to be aware of before combing sheep and horses is that horse feed, treats, and other horse foods can be very toxic for sheep because they usually have copper in them. In addition, sheep feed can have additives that may be harmful to horses.
The bottom line? Keep your horses and sheep separated from each other whenever you’re feeding them anything special. Fully grown sheep will be fine eating high-quality horse hay, but that along with grass is the only food they should be sharing. Make sure that you store your food in secure containers that can’t be easily accessed by your animals.
Again, always seek the guidance of your vet or other qualified health professional with any questions you have regarding the health of your animals. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any other website.
The Benefits of Keeping Horses and Sheep Together
The Diets of Horse and Sheep Can Benefit Your Land
If you own a lot of land, keeping it in good condition can be hard work. One of the things that many people love about keeping horses and sheep together is how it benefits their fields.
While horses typically stick to good old fashioned grass and hay, sheep are less picky. They’ll eat most of the weeds and other plants that horses don’t like, resulting in healthy and aesthetically pleasing fields.
Companion Sheep Are Less Expensive Than Owning Another Horse
You’ve probably heard it said that you should never keep a horse by itself. This is because horses are extremely social herd animals. Confining them to a life of solitude goes against their nature, and can reduce the quality of their life.
However, if two horses aren’t in your budget, owning a sheep can be a less expensive way to provide a good companion for your horse. While they do still require regular care, the cost of owning a sheep is typically far less than that of owning a second horse.
Common Questions About Owning Horses And Sheep
Do Sheep Help Keep Horses Calm?
One of the reasons that horses in the wild are herd animals is because there is safety in numbers. They keep together as a means of survival. If your horse always seems frightened or on edge, I believe that providing them with a companion sheep could greatly improve their disposition and help them stay calm.
Can Babydoll Sheep Live With Horses?
If you’re looking for a companion for your horse, I don’t recommend babydoll sheep. Because babydoll sheep are only 18 to 24 inches tall when they’re fully grown, a concern of keeping them with horses is that they could easily be injured by a large horse, even if the horse isn’t intentionally being hostile. A regular-sized sheep would make a far better companion for a horse.
Is It Safe for Sheep and Horses to Eat the Same Food?
Horses and fully-grown sheep can eat the same quality of grass and hay. However, you should never feed horse feed to a sheep, or sheep feed to a horse. Their feeds have been created with their unique dietary needs in mind and can have additives that are fatal if consumed by the wrong species. Always separate your horses and sheep if you’re giving them any type of grain, supplement, or mineral.
Is It Possible For a Horse to Get Sick From A Sheep?
There are some sicknesses and diseases that are shared by horses and sheep, however, they aren’t incredibly common. For more information, you should check with a trained veterinarian to learn of the health concerns for keeping sheep and horses together. Horses and sheep don’t share any parasites, so that’s something you won’t have to worry about.
In closing, sheep and horses can make great companions for each other and live long and happy lives together. If you’re still looking for a great companion for your horse, here’s my article on keeping horses and goats together.
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