A Twitter video of a flock of sheep walking in circles has gone viral and stunned people around the world.
The unusual video showing dozens of sheep walking clockwise in concentric circles, was filmed in the city of Baotou in Mongolia and was shared on Twitter by Chinese state-run outlet People’s Daily. The eerily walking went on for 12 days straight, with no reasonable explanation.
At the time, the media outlet reported the sheep are perfectly healthy and the cause of the behaviour was a mystery. “A flock of Sheep in Inner Mongolia have been walking in a circle for over 10 days straight and no one knows why,” reads the caption of the video.
Internet users have tried to solve the mystery and came up with imaginative explanations from apocalypse predictions to “death spirals”. Others, speculated that a bacterial disease called listeriosis could cause the sheep’s strange behaviour: “Initially, affected animals are anorectic, depressed, and disoriented,” wrote the British publication Metro, citing the Merck veterinary manual. “They may propel themselves into corners, lean against stationary objects, or circle toward the affected side.” However, in the case of listeriosis outbreak, only a small percentage of animals are affected and death usually occurs within 24 to 48 hours after symptoms are observed, which is not the scenario on the Mongolian farm.
Ms. Miao, the owner of the farm which has a total of 34 pens with sheep said that only those in pen number 13 were circling. Miao claims that at the beginning just a few sheep were circling, but then they were joined by almost the whole flock.
Matt Bell, an agricultural scientist at Hartpury University in England, told Newsweek: “It looks like the sheep are in the pen for long periods, and this might lead to stereotypic behaviour, with the repeated circling due to frustration about being in the pen and limited [as to where they can go]. This is not good. Then the other sheep join as they are flock animals and bond or join their friends.”
As the actual cause has not been determined yet, the mystery lives on!