FACT CHECK: Is there a fence in this viral image? Here’s the truth!

Misleading Social

Most of the sheep behavioral studies, classify them as gregarious animals, meaning that sheep band together and pretty much stay together for protection. Also because of this nature if one sheep moves in a particular direction others tend to follow them and soon the entire flock will follow.

Some viral social media posts on a similar topic posted an image and claimed that even though there was no fence, sheep followed each other to go past a gate while leaving the stall. However, our investigation revealed that there was indeed a fence and the claims made in the post are not true. Let’s check out the image and find out its true story.

Social Media Posts:

An overhead photograph of herd of sheep stocking together in leaving a small opening which looked like a gate was shared widely among social media users along with the text with read “A herd of sheep is leaving the stall. There is no fence, only the gate”

The posts indicated that this was the “trap of thinking” that even though there was no gate sheep were not opting for other options.

InstagramArchived Link

We noticed similar posts being shared by a number of other users in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world as well.

Even though these posts were trying to bring out a positive message in not limiting one’s thoughts and blindly following others, the message was based on the image. Hence the we thought of verifying whether the claim associated with the viral image is true or not irrespective of the message the post tries to convey.

Fact Check 

A reverse image of the viral image led us to the below image titled “Through the Gate” uploaded by an Australian outback photographer called Scott Bridle.

Scott BridleArchived

This along with few other photos were also seen in the photo collection by Scott Brittle titled “Brenda Station 2012

While analyzing the high resolution image uploaded by Scott Bridle we noticed what seemed like poles placed on either side of the gate, indicative of possibility of a fence, as shown below in the red circles.

We inspected the social profiles of Scott Bridle, a Queensland outback helicopter pilot who flies over some of the most isolated terrain in Australia and captures stunning images. 

This image was featured in his social profiles as well. To the number of queries whether there was a fence in the image, Scott had replied, “YES, there is a fence” in 2016, as seen below on his official Facebook page.

Facebook | Archived

We noticed that Queensland magazine Courier Mail recently featured this image with the caption “Sheep going through the Gate, Brenda Station, Hebel, QLD. Picture: Scott Bridle” along with some of other images of incredible landscapes captured by this daring outback photographer.

Article | Archived

AFP had done a fact check on similar claims back in 2019, where Scott had confirmed that there was a gate and a fence as well in the viral image.

Sheep Behavior

As mentioned earlier, most animal behavioral studies state that sheep tend to stay together to protect each other from predators and flee in unison following the leader. 

MSD Manual | Archived   Sheep101 | Archived

This BBC article states that contrary to the popular belief that sheep are stupid and helpless creatures, “Sheep are actually surprisingly intelligent, with impressive memory and recognition skills. They build friendships, stick up for one another in fights, and feel sad when their friends are sent to slaughter”

Conclusion 

From our investigation it’s clear that while the viral images are trying to bring out a positive message in not to be limited in one’s thinking, the example of sheep leaving the stall through the gate while there was no fence is misleading. Scott Bridle the Queensland photographer confirms that there was a fence at “Brenda Station” when the aerial image was taken. Animal flow dynamic studies indicate that sheep tend to move and stay together for protection.

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Title:Is there a fence in this viral image? Here’s the truth!

Fact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe 

Result: Misleading

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