Dr Andrew King of Swansea University has used GPS technology to understand how sheepdogs do their jobs so well.
He fitted a flock of sheep and a sheepdog with backpacks containing extremely accurate GPS devices designed by colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College, London. Daniel Strömbom of Uppsala University and colleagues then used data from these devices, together with computer simulations, to develop a mathematical shepherding model.
The team found that sheepdogs likely use just two simple rules: to collect the sheep when they’re dispersed and drive them forward when they’re aggregated. In the model, a single shepherd could herd a flock of more than 100 individuals using these two simple rules.
Andrew King explained, “If you watch sheepdogs rounding up sheep, the dog weaves back and forth behind the flock in exactly the way that we see in the model. We had to think about what the dog could see to develop our model. It basically sees white, fluffy things in front of it. If the dog sees gaps between the sheep, or the gaps are getting bigger, the dog needs to bring them together.”
Daniel Strömbom said, “At every time step in the model, the dog decides if the herd is cohesive enough or not. If not cohesive, it will make it cohesive, but if it’s already cohesive the dog will push the herd towards the target.”
King believes that the research team’s model will have many applications for tasks like crowd control, herding of livestock, and keeping animals away from sensitive areas. The algorithm developed could be used to program robots for these tasks.
Source: Natural Environment Research Council media release
Posted in research
Tagged Andrew King, Border Collie, Daniel Strömbom, Dr Andrew King, flock of sheep, GPS, GPS devices, GPS technology, London, robots, Royal Veterinary College, sheep herding, sheepdog, shepherding, Swansea University, Uppsala University
When journalist Danny Hakim was transferred from upstate New York to London, the most important issue was how to get Harley, the family’s Golden Retriever, there.
- Photo by Luke Wolagiewicz for the New York Times
I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did. Read it here.
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Congratulations to John Tovey and his guide dog, Dez, who not only won the Guide Dog of the Year award but also a Life Changing Award on 19th July at the Specsavers Guide Dog of the Year Awards in London.
John is only 44 and lost his eyesight two years ago to diabetes. In going blind, John also lost the ability to do his job as a fitter (he’d worked on projects like the Channel Tunnel). Enter Dez, a Black Labrador…
‘I just fell in love,’ says John.
Now Dez wakes him up every morning at 7:30 wanting to be fed. And John has quality of life again.
Read more about John’s story in this BBC News article.
We all know that the Royal Wedding is coming up next week. However, London dogs got a chance to celebrate a week early with their very own Easter party.
8,000 plastic eggs were hidden for dogs to find; each contained a dog treat and a prize ticket.
This event was organised as a fundraiser for National Service Dogs, where there is a two-year waiting list for dogs that help autistic children.
Scroll through the day’s photos here.
Read the full story here.