What are these sheep looking so worried about?
On a family trip away this weekend I took the photo below of what appear, to me at least, to be mildly worried sheep. This could have been due to me and my daughter suddenly appearing at the hedge, but could be that they were worried about the economy or their uncertain future.
Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University would say it was me they were worried about. This is not a personal reflection on my nefarious activities with sheep, but rather his research on stress. His view is that animals other than humans suffer stress in the 'here and now'. The zebra runs from the lion and may or may not get caught; either way the 'stress' is over. Humans, on the other hand, generally suffer chronic stress, it is this that Sapolsky sees as having damaging physical consequences such as hypertension.
Robert Sapolsky has spent 25 summers with the same group of baboons in Kenya noting the sources of stress, the relationships in the group, and the 'personality' of each baboon. He has also done a great deal of work on the hormonal response to stress and how the 'flight or fight' response may be causing more harm than good in today's modern world.
On the upside whilst the sheep looked worried I enjoyed a relaxing walk in the countryside.