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"The portal will be open soon": Sheep walking in circles meaning explored as eerie China video goes viral

Sheep have been walking in a circle for 12 days straight (image via Reddit)
Sheep have been walking in a circle for 12 days straight (image via Reddit)

A flock of sheep from China have gone viral. In a video from China's Inner Mongol Region, dozens of sheep have been walking in a circle for nearly 12 days without a break.

The farmer in charge of the flock reported that it first started with just a few numbers but was quickly joined by many. The surveillance footage shows the flock continuously walking clockwise in a circle. Some sheep can be seen standing motionless in the center, while some stood outside watching the circling sheep. The bizarre incident has raised eyebrows and questions.

The post was shared by a Reddit page titled 'Damnthatsinteresting.'

A comment left on the video suggested that the wooly animals are involved in some unnatural ritual that could open a "portal." @TheCowardlyLion_ commented:

"The portal will be open soon..."

To which another Redditor, @Im_Borat, replied:

"That's going to be baaaaaaaaa'ad"
Punny reaction to an unnatural cattle circle (image via Reddit)
Punny reaction to an unnatural cattle circle (image via Reddit)

The state-run Chinese outlet People’s Daily tweeted a video of the flock, claiming that "the sheep are healthy" but that "the reason for the weird behavior is still a mystery."

The great sheep mystery! Hundreds of sheep walk in a circle for over 10 days in N China's Inner Mongolia. The sheep are healthy and the reason for the weird behavior is still a mystery. https://t.co/8Jg7yOPmGK

Sheep circle theories explored

The owner of the farm, Ms. Miao, claimed that the wooly creatures have been walking around in the same circle for almost a fortnight. The eerie incident started on November 4, with just a few of the farm animals, but the numbers went up later.

Footage of the event was taken on the farm's CCTV (image via Reddit)
Footage of the event was taken on the farm's CCTV (image via Reddit)

The thing that takes the cake is that there are a total of 24 sheep pens on the farm, but only the animals in pen number 13 are involved in this bizarre "performance." It is natural to jump to "supernatural" theories, especially with the bad luck attached to the number 13, but there happens to be a scientific reason for this phenomenon.

The reason for this behavior in farm animals is due to a bacterial disease called Listeriosis, which is known to make animals 'circle,' similar to Ms. Miao's animals. Listeriosis is linked to exposure to spoiled silage (fodder), which causes disorientation and inflammation on one side of the brain, hence the circling.

In extreme cases, Listeriosis can also lead to paralysis on the affected side.

Listeriosis commonly misinterpreted as witchcraft (image Stafford Ondego)
Listeriosis commonly misinterpreted as witchcraft (image Stafford Ondego)

In sheep, goats, and certain other hoofed animals, death usually occurs 24–48 hours after symptoms are detected. Symptoms include anorexia, depression, disorientation, and lack of coordination which causes animals to go around in circles.


Netizens concoct wild theories about the sheep flock circle

The video has blown up since being posted, with a 95% upvote rate. Several views and comments have helped in spreading the news all over social media, including Twitter. Many think the flock is about to open a deep portal to the underworld, while others conclude that they just might be drunk.

Funny theories abound, but one common theory is that aliens could be approaching Earth through these woolybacks. Another hilarious response likened this flock circle to humans during a music festival, where fans either make mosh pits or do 'the train.'

One user suggested throwing salt in the middle to stop the animals from circling, insinuating the presence of some 'unholy' presence, while another simply suggested we ask them.

@Billyhottakes I'd be more concerned if they were walking in a triangle
@Billyhottakes a flock of humans do the same at music festivals for a number of days and no one knows why https://t.co/f6hu1qcvBB
@Billyhottakes it might be because they're sheep, and following is kinda what they do
@Billyhottakes What if you break the circle with a line of salt?
@Billyhottakes Has anyone asked them?

This is not the first time cattle have made the news due to Listeriosis, which has made them act in strange ways. In May 2022, a ram in South Sudan was sentenced to 3 years in prison for killing an old woman after being exposed to similarly soiled fodder that caused disorientation and rage.

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Edited by Somava
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