sheep worrying

Frances Fish with the two Lincoln Long Wools which were attacked by dogs last week.
Frances Fish with the two Lincoln Long Wools which were attacked by dogs last week.

DOGS terrorised sheep at Bowmont Forest last week so badly that the owner nearly put the ewes out of their suffering.

The animals ripped the muzzles of two ewes and probably caused internal damage to one on Wednesday or Thursday, said rare sheep breeder Frances Fish.

“I was absolutely horrified, I couldn’t believe it had happened. It was touch-and-go whether we should ring the vet to have them put down,” she said.

The retired dentist and her husband, John, a retired orthodontist at Borders General Hospital, have kept rare breed sheep, including Shetlands, Ryelands, Wensleydale and Lincoln Long Wools, for more than 20 years.

They have a flock of 400 and rent land from Roxburghe Estates near the popular dog walking spot at Bowmont Forest, Ancrum. They also have land at Oxnam and Knowesouth near Jedburgh.

This is the second time their sheep have been worried on land next to Bowmont Forest.

The attacked flock are the particularly rare Lincoln Long Wools, one of the UK’s largest sheep – ewes typically weigh about 100kg.

All of the top lip of an older ewe was ripped and flesh torn away.

“It is like a cleft palate in a baby. She’s got a gap of about half an inch down from the nose and a flap on one side. We didn’t see what the vet could do apart from a miracle – there’s not enough tissue to sew her lip together.”

The younger hogg, worth about £90, sustained injuries round her mouth, but Mrs Fish feared she had internal injuries because she had pneumonia-type symptoms. She has given her antibiotics.

“Somebody walked off and left the sheep like that. I was absolutely incandescent that anybody could do that. The dogs must have had blood on their muzzles at the very least.

“You don’t expect to have to protect sheep from people’s pets – foxes, yes and Defra and Seerad maybe. I was totally incensed,” said Mrs Fish.

She thinks more than one dog was involved because to cause such damage to the sheep would have taken one dog a considerable time.

“Both sheep are in a sorry state and have numerous bites on their muzzles and torn lips and cheeks, so the offending animals had been in for some time and the owner must surely know what had happened. I assume that either they do not care or that they are too ashamed to admit it was their dog or dogs, and may be worried about the consequences. I can tell what the consequences are for my poor two sheep who must be in a great deal of pain and are having difficulty eating and drinking.”

She added: “If the dogs have done it once, they will do it again. If they will do it to a sheep, how long before they do it to a young child?”

She went on: “The owners give other dog owners a bad name because most are responsible and wouldn’t let this happen. Bowmont Forest is a very popular place for people to walk their dogs – we do – and most people are very considerate.”

Two years ago, two dogs worried two of the Fishs’ Ryeland ewes in lamb, tearing their sides. Both lost their lambs.

NFU Scotland livestock policy manager Penny Johnston said: “Instances of sheep worrying are extremely distressing for livestock keepers, who take a lot of pride in caring for their animals.

“The consequences can be wide-ranging as even without any physical injury, a great deal of stress is caused to the livestock, particularly where pregnant or very young stock are involved.

“Fortunately, most dog owners are aware of the issue and will take appropriate steps to control their dogs around livestock, but a minority can cause devastation for flocks or herds which fall victim to attack.

“Walks in the countryside are pleasurable to both dog and owner, and we in no way want to discourage this activity. However, we urge owners to be aware of this risk to themselves and livestock within the countryside and to take sensible precautions to ensure the safety of self, dog and livestock. “

Owners face fines of up to £1,000 if their dogs worry livestock.