What Sheep See

Biddy, with eyes on the sides of her head and horizontal pupils.

Eunice got me thinking about it and then Amanda reminded me, when they left comments on my blog, to find out about a sheeps horizontal pupil and what they see.

So I searched around and found an article called Revealed: why animals’ pupils come in different sizes and shapes, by Gordon Love. (There’s also information in this article about vertical pupils, which cats have, and how they help cats hunt).

Most grazing animals like, sheep, goats, horses and cows, have horizontal pupils.

Sheep have poor depth perception, and can see color, but not in the same way humans do.  They are often startled by colors they’re not used to seeing.

A sheep’s eyes are on the side of their head which gives them almost 360 degree vision.  They can’t see directly in front of them and also have a blind spot behind them by their tail.  But otherwise they can see all around them, so they can see their predators.

A sheeps horizontal pupil lets light in from in front and behind them, not from above and below them.  This  helps them to see predators coming at them from all sides on ground level, which is where their attackers would come from. They also have  better vision for running away from predators because they can see so well at ground level.

And, when sheep are grazing they’re not looking down at the grass, their eyes rotate up so they they’re always looking at ground level, keeping an eye out for predators.

Not only do I find this interesting, but I feel like it’s going to help me relate to my sheep better.  Having a sense of how they see, I’ll be more aware of how they see or don’t see. I’ll now understand just what is and isn’t in their field of vision and how to better approach them.




4 thoughts on “What Sheep See

  1. Absolutely fascinating, Maria. I’ve often wondered about sheep eyes but was too lazy to do any research. Thanks for doing it for me! (And for linking to that very interesting article, which I’ve bookmarked for future reference.)

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