Can anyone explain fluorescent yellow sheep to me?

I have various theories, but I'm not sure any of them hold water. The color seems far in excess of the usual paint splotches that are used as brands; ditto color to indicate sheep that have been through the dip. If it were in the US, I would think that the function is to warn off trigger-happy deer hunters (or, if you're of a more cynical bent, to help trigger-happy deer hunters find the target). But is this a problem in Britain?


Interestingness: #3 on 14 Jan 2008.


Aha! see links, excerpt & comments below. Apparently 3 reasons: (i) To make sheep more saleable as breeding stock; the dye ages to a nice 'biscuity' shade that complements the black and white colors and mimics the shade seen in sheep that have a lot of lanolin in their wool. (ii) To make it easier to locate the tup (ram) out on the hills when he's with the ewe flock. (iii) To discourage livestock theft.


Thanks to the many commenters who offered links or first-hand knowledge (as well as to those who offered many entertaining theories). Here's the BBC story on sheep rustling from 6 April 2011:

  • sheepdoggwen1 6y

    the reason they colour the tups is that they may sell them but I would think this tup will be coloured because at tupping time(mateing time!) on the hills they can spot the tup from far away and they will have a few tups with the flock so they will be easier seen. They colour the breeding sheep ewes and ewe lambs when they sell them through the market it makes them look better we will be colouring some sheep next month I will take some photos to show how it is done
  • Anita Gould 6y

    Gwen, thank you! That makes an awful lot of sense.
  • Heidi's_PaSSioNs ღ 6y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called ~~ MANES & FEATHERS ! ~~uP cLOsE, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  • canton77 6y

    Im a coach driver working in Scotland and have just seen yellow sheep identical to Anitas picture between Arrochar and Tarbet. One of my passengers asked me to explain and I still cant give a definite answer. I have seen pink sheep before but that was in February and they had been dyed so the farmer could find them in the snow. I dont think this is the case here.... but many of the answers are possible!
  • canton77 6y

    After further research, ie talking to other coach drivers ! The yellow colour is due to a sheepdip to protect against sheep scab disease. It always causes a yellowing of the wool which is more pronounced in certain breeds, and some farmers use too much just for the effect!
    I also have reports of pale pink sheep in the Totnes area of Devon, where the colour is due to them grazing on grass growing on a red soil. I still like the idea of Madonnas designer sheep though !
  • LeggyGina 6y

    It is all so simple....The day the photo was taken it was to rain, therefore the good shepherd, caring for the health of his price ram, had him wear his yellow oilskins and black wellies!
  • Anita Gould 6y

    Best explanation yet! :-) Thanks, Gina!
  • Apple Green Amy 5y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Colour Makes Me Happy, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
  • Eddi van W. 5y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Creative Commons- Free Pictures, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
  • Henry Fisher 4y

    They are possibly left over from contaminated livestock from the Chernobyl disaster nuclear particles were carried over by the wind causing yellow sheep and a glowing forest in the uk
  • Anita Gould 4y

    Ah, another excellent hypothesis!
  • Brenda Clarke 4y


    Found in a search. (?)
  • jpgenlloud 4y

    Ergonomics -
    easier to spot a sheep belonging to you in a vast grazing area.

    Technological advance -
    availability of cost effective, non-toxic sheep dip dye.

    Economics -
    high commodity (feed/food/meat) prices makes sheep theft effort worthwhile.

    Socio-economics -
    high consumer prices, inflation, austerity measures, unemployment, high levels of debt + increased mobility, non location-rooted neighbourly communities, less solidarity, increased desperation = increased criminal activity - increased criminal innovation - better exploitation of opportunity + feeling hard-done-by consumers, land-owner antipathy + larger fell-off-the-back-of-a-truck market = more sheep rustling

    Sheep Rustling Deterrence -
    (Sheep rustler) "Hmm, I could probably sneak out that white sheep with a blue spot, but that fluorescent orange one may be a bit obvious". (Witness)" Did you see that, love? That van had a fluorescent orange sheep in it". (Butcher) "Why is your sheep fluorescent orange?" (Wool purchaser) "Why are you bringing me wool that colour? You're too early. It needs to have faded before you bring it here."

    An increase in sheep rustling on Dartmoor (Farming Today 06.04.2011)
    and easier sheep spotting in the wide open highland grazing areas.

    Great picture. Thanks. It has intrigued me for a while.
  • Anita Gould 4y

    jp, bravo & thank you! Looks like they've got it straight from the horse's mouth -- or maybe that should be sheep's mouth.
  • MAE S.A. 4y

    honestly if real, is very beautiful what nature can do and what gives us.
  • Ash Menon 4y

    Hi there Anita, I've used this picture in my blog article , with the image linking back to this page. If you are not okay with this and would like me to take it down, just let me know. Lovely image by the way!
  • Anita Gould 4y

    Ash: Thanks for the linkback, the use is fine.
  • ☾☼§↑μ☺ ★ KROTALO ★ 4y

  • Harvey Roberts 4y

    Hafta laugh! I'm thinking pipe cleaning, they're industrial pipe cleaners. Were they stinky?
  • Anita Gould 4y

    You could get an awful lot of pipe cleaners out of that sheep! Uh, probably just as stinky as any other sheep. :-)
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