It is our trademark here in San Angelo. The sheep statues that adorn so many businesses across our area testify to the part sheep have played in making our community what it is today.

Now it turns out science has something to say about sheep.

A new study at the University of California-Davis shows a connection between sheep and better mental health. For the last two years, the university has allowed 25 wooly and cute sheep to leave their barns and nibble on lawns at various campus locations.

The sheep, four breeds of Suffolk, Hampshire, Southdown, and Dorset, did much more than mow, fertilize and improve the ecosystem of the yards they gracefully grazed. It turns out the sheep actually improved people's mental health.

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.

This is welcome news, especially with recent studies that show that students today report struggling with stress and challenges with mental health at higher rates than in the past.

"We found that there was a significantly lower likelihood of current feelings of being 'very stressed' or 'stressed' among the sheep mower group when compared to the group that did not experience sheep mowers," she said of the study, researched over four sheep-mowing events in spring 2022. "The group with the sheep was just so much happier," Kiers said.

Honestly, I am disappointed that Angelo State did not commission this study. Why would we let California beat us in a study of sheep when we're in what used to be the heart of America's Sheep Belt?

Ok, I made the sheep belt part up, but if there were one, surely we would be in it.

The study proves that sheep have a therapeutic calming effect on people prone to stressful situations. San Angelo had the right idea all along. We need to add some real living sheep and statues to the public areas around San Angelo to engage in landscaping and stress relief.

It's no wonder the sheep exhibitors at the Livestock Show seem to be so serene and happy. They've discovered the benefits of sheep. They're not just for counting when you can't sleep anymore.

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