12 Characteristics of Sheep


       David Murray at Head Heart Hand




Throughout Scripture, sinners in general, and God’s people in particular, are described as

sheep. Here are some characteristics of sheep and I think you will agree that it is very

applicable to us!


1. Sheep are foolish. I don’t know what sheep would score in an animal IQ, but I think

they would be close to the bottom of the scale. They seem to only know how to do one

thing well –  eat grass (and produce more grass-eating sheep).  It’s possible to know little,

yet not be foolish; but not if you are a sheep. They are so irrational. You watch them as

they pause in front of a stream. They know they can’t jump it or swim it. So what do

they do? They jump in anyway!


2. Sheep are slow to learn.  Every shepherd will tell you countless stories about how

sheep can be taught a very painful lesson, and yet fail to learn the painful lesson. A

sheep may get caught in barbed wire trying to break through a fence. And the next day

it will try it again, and again,…


3. Sheep are unattractive.  Some animals may not be very bright, but make up for it

with grace and elegance in their movement and actions. But sheep are so awkward,

so lacking in agility and dignity. Although some shepherds may tell you differently,

to most outside observers sheep are dirty, smelly, and ugly.


4. Sheep are demanding. Ever watch a lamb suckle its mother? Almost as soon as it

is born, it is violently sucking its mother’s udders. And that insatiable demand never

leaves them. They demand grass, grass, and more grass; day after day, and night after

night. (Do they ever sleep?) And when snow is on the ground, they aggressively

demand food from the shepherd. Just listen to them bleat if their troughs are empty

even for a short time. And watch the life-or-death stampede when the shepherd appears.


5. Sheep are stubborn. Have you ever tried to move a sheep? It’s like trying to move an

elephant. Ever watched a shepherd try to manoeuvre a sheep into a fold or a dip-tank.

It’s like trying to wrestle with a devil. Half a dozen sheep invaded my garden once.

I thought it would be easy to hustle them out the wide gate again. But it was as if an

electric shield (visible only to sheep) stretched across the gap. I could get them to go

anywhere and everywhere, but through that gate.


6. Sheep are strong.  I’ve watched the most macho of men beaten by sheep. You look

at their skinny “arms” and “legs” and think “easy.” Next thing you are flat on your back

or face down in the dirt. I’ve been flattened by running sheep. It was like getting run

over by a tank.


7. Sheep are straying. Perhaps the main reason Scripture chooses sheep to characterize us,

more than any other animal, is because of its well-deserved reputation for straying (Isa. 53:6)

and getting lost (Lk. 15:3). So many times I was out in the middle of nowhere when I would

come across a sheep – miles from anyone and anything – and totally unconcerned. I would

look up on a cliff and there was a sheep out on a lethal ledge. Other times, when fishing

miles from anywhere, I would come across ditches and bogs with the decaying remains

of a wandering sheep, and I’d think, “How did that get out here?”


8. Sheep are unpredictable. If you travel along the roads of the Scottish Highlands you will

soon learn to expect the unexpected. You look ahead on a quiet piece of long straight road

with no cars. You spy sheep in the distance on the side of the road. They watch you driving

along towards them. Hundreds of yards pass. You are almost level. Well, they aren’t going

to cross the road now, are they? Screeeeeech! Well, what do you know!


9. Sheep are copycats. OK, bit of a mix of metaphors here, but I think you get my point.

When one sheep decides to start running, they all decide to start running. If you were able

to ask one, “Why did you start running?” it would say, “Well, because he started running.”

The next would say the same. And the next one. And when you got to the last sheep he

would just say, “I dunno.”


10. Sheep are restless. It always puzzled me how little sheep slept. I would be in my

study at midnight, look out, and there they were still eating grass. And no matter what

time I arose in the morning – 3am or 5am – they would still be eating grass. Other times,

there would be a beautiful summer evening when everything was still and quiet and you

would come across a field full of sprinting sheep (usually due to the Scottish midges –

look it up on Google). I once heard that for sheep to lie down they need freedom from

fear, freedom from friction with others, freedom from hunger, and freedom from pests

and parasites. From what I’ve seen, that combination is very rare.


11. Sheep are dependent. Some animals can cope and thrive without any close

supervision. Not sheep. They are very dependent on their shepherd. They cannot live

without him (or her).


12. Sheep are the same everywhere.  I’ve been in a number of different countries in my

life and enjoyed the many cultural differences. But sheep are the one constant – in character

if not in looks. The American sheep is the same as the African sheep (see 1-11 above),

which is the same as the Asian sheep, which is the same as…