Sheep can benefit urban lawn landscapes and people grazing sheep reduce stress, study suggests
Landscape management research includes mental health and nature therapy
February 21, 2023
Source: University of California – Davis
The 25 wooly sheep who seasonally — for the past two years — leave their University of California, Davis, barns to nibble on lawns at various central campus locations, are doing much more than mowing, fertilizing and improving the ecosystem. The sheep also are improving people’s mental health.
The sheep — four breeds of Suffolk, Hampshire, Southdown and Dorset — first took on this role in 2021, when COVID-19 masking and social-distancing protocols were in full swing. The goal was to determine whether sheep could benefit urban lawn landscapes and make a case for increasing their usage. The program is growing and exploring additional benefits sheep provide.
“This started out as experiment to test their mowing abilities, and we have now published research on how they make people feel peaceful,” said Haven Kiers, the lead author of a new study, director of the sheep mowers project and an assistant professor of landscape architecture in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“I can’t believe this is research; it’s so much fun,” Kiers said.
The research has important relevance, especially at a time when, nationwide since the 1980s, students of all ages have expressed that they struggle with stress and their mental and physical health. Kiers, co-authors and researchers surveyed about 200 students, staff, faculty, and community members about their experiences walking by, or even hanging out in Adirondack chairs studying, sketching and painting watercolors among the sheep.
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