I’ve lost track of how many people have told me since last winter that sheep don’t need liquid water to drink if there’s snow on the ground. I’ve mostly taken this as fact, and permission to be lazy in my water-carrying obligations, but I recently asked Bill (again) if it was really true. He said he was pretty sure it was, but suggested I do the experiment — provide water while there was snow cover and see what the sheep do. Tuesday was above freezing for most of the day, so I took the opportunity to test the Snow Hypothesis.
The lambs and the cheviots were indifferent, but the dorset-katahdin group mobbed the water even as I was still pouring from the jerry cans (they’re usually very skittish about getting splashed). This seemed like a bad sign for the Hypothesis, but I told myself that sheep are usually interested in anything I bring with me, even rocks and sticks. Perhaps they were just drawn to the novelty.
The next morning, one of the katahdins was still excited about the water, and both tubs were well depleted. I wouldn’t claim that she thanked me, but she did seem to signal her appreciation.
So we seem to have at least a partial repudiation of the Hypothesis; the other two groups didn’t touch the water I put out, but the dorsets and katahdins make a convincing argument that they want something more than snow. We’re supposed to get up to a foot of fresh stuff tomorrow, so I plan to repeat the experiment while the sheep have access to fresh snow, but it looks like I’m not off the water-carrying hook.