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Sheep On The Road

Biker Bio-Hazards: The Sheep

Like looking at wildlife? On Scottish roads, there’s some you need to look OUT for. Here’s Part 1 in our handy guide to biking biological hazards – sheep on the road.

Sheep confuse me.

It’s clear that they do possess something resembling knees, because sometimes you see them kneeling down to eat. (Because their feet are sore? Because they forgot how to bend their necks? Beats me.)

Since sheep do have knees, why do they run in that weird, stiff-legged way, like ambulant coffee tables? It’s as though somebody cable-tied a tyre lever to each of their legs. (No, that’s not a recreational suggestion. Apart from anything else, what idiot carries four tyre levers? Every biker knows that two-plus-much-swearing will generally do the trick. And that’s only if you haven’t already fixed everything with the cable ties…)

I digress. If you’ve ridden on remote Scottish roads, you’ll know that free-ranging unfenced sheep are an occasional bonus feature. These “open plan” grazing areas are usually signposted. However, if you’ve crossed over a cattle grid, it’s best to assume that normal fence etiquette has ceased to apply. This means that sheep are quite likely to be contemplating the nature of the universe (or whatever else it is that they do, when not otherwise occupied in forgetting how to use their knees and/or necks) in the middle of the road.

Most adult free-grazing sheep will be relatively used to passing vehicles, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t suddenly go into Sheer Ovine Panic. (This is particularly true if your exhaust is a little, ahem, throaty.) In panic mode, Newton’s Laws of Motion no longer apply to sheep, and the little woolly b***** could go anywhere. This particularly applies to groups of lambs, who are known to produce nature’s closest approximation to a lidless saucepan of popcorn going off.

The best tactic for dealing with sheep – no surprise here – is to keep a good lookout, and to go slowly and steadily. Be prepared for them to swerve in front of you, and be ready to stop sharply. Keep a particular eye out for lambs that are on the far side of the road from their mothers, as one or the other is quite likely to dart across at the last minute.

Oh, and in the interests of balanced journalism (which I can do – balance, I mean – because I have actual functional knees), sheep are apparently not as idiotic as they seem. Not only can they recognise the faces of other sheep in their herd, they can also recognise human faces. (Lord knows the allegedly human Doctor Sprocket has trouble with that at times). However, experts inform me that a sheep’s face recognition skills when you (or they) are wearing a motorbike helmet are yet to be determined. (And no, that’s not a recreational suggestion either).

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