Mother-daughter and peer relationships of Scottish hill sheep

Alistair B. Lawrence*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Observations were made on the behaviour of juvenile ewes in a home-range group of Scottish hill sheep, Ovis aries. The group, including the juvenile ewes, remained on the hill throughout the year. In contrast to previous studies of hill sheep, whilst the juveniles remained in their natal group, their associations with their mothers declined from about 6 months of age onwards. There was no indication of any recovery in the mother-daughter bond by the end of the study. In this respect the present study concurs with other work on populations of feral and wild sheep. Whilst associations with mothers declined, the preference for peers increased in autumn and strengthened considerably in winter, as the juveniles formed peer groups that moved independently of older ewes. Peer associations declined the following summer as the juvenile ewes again became integrated into the larger group. Although juveniles did not associated with their mothers, cluster analysis of movement patterns showed that at 1 year old they tended to develop summer ranging behaviour similar to their mothers. It is suggested that separation from the mother and the development of relationships with peers have arisen in sheep as these social processes facilitate the formation and cohesion of large home range groups with the benefits that larger group sizes confer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-486
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


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