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Ovine pugnacity in traditional Mongolian dwellings: A tipping point

Kieran Mathieson, Ph.D.
Center for Ovine Disaster Studies
Oakland University
Rochester, Michigan, USA

There have been reliable reports (Poundstone & Felber, 2023) that increasing the number of sheep in a Mongolian yurt by one, as in 34 to 35, can have horrific consequences. While ovine belligerence in tight quarters has been observed frequently in the field, this is the first time we have completely reliable data about a specific tipping point from annoyance to slaughter. This paper posits a cause for ovine massacres based on the new data from Poundstone and Felber (2023).



A traditional Mongolian yurt, or ger (not related to the Zim’s Gir, as far as we know), is a cylinder topped by a cone (Figure 1). For our purposes, only the cylinder is relevant. Further, since sheep prefer not to hover or stand atop each other for long periods, only the floor area is considered.


Figure 1. Yurts (Vorel, 2023)

(Thank you to reviewer 2 for referring us to ovis ariel, the hovering sheep of Queensland. However, since they cannot live outside the gravitational discontinuity zone west of Brisbane, their existence does not negate our analysis.)

Yurts vary in size. Genghis Khan’s was 9 meters in diameter (NGS, 2023), yielding an area of approximately 28.3 square meters. This value is officially defined as 1 square yurteter (TONI, 2016a). We adopted this standard in our analysis.

Sheep spirals

Reports from Mongolia and China (Tiwari, 2022) show sheep walking in circles for long periods, often more than ten days (Figure 2).

Sheep circle

Figure 2. Sheep spiral. Note the inner flocklet inside the outer spiral.

The cause of sheep spirals is unknown, though Fineman (2022) speculated they may be trying to find a missing crock pot. Felber (2023) disputes this view, claiming the crock pot does not exist.

Nevertheless, sheep spirals have been associated with the well-documented increase in ovine-human violence. This urgent issue prompted our analysis.

Ovinal space demands

In stasis, the average Mongolian sheep needs 0.8 sq meters of ovinal space (TONI, 2016b), analogous to personal space for humans. However, when sheep are in motion, the figure rises to 0.83 sq meters (TONI, 2016c).


Consider these results:

  • 34 sheep in motion require 28.2 sq meters, slightly less than 1 square yurteter.
  • 35 sheep in motion require 29.1 sq meters, slightly more than 1 square yurteter.

Our analysis is consistent with the notion that ovinal density when sheep are in motion is related to the attacks. For a standard Khanian yurt, the tipping point (Gladwell, 200o) is at 35 sheep, as reported by Poundstone and Felber (2023).

Limitations and recommendations

Our suggestion is speculative, since we have not conducted controlled experiments on ovine density-related violence. There are ethical issues in the conduct of such research, although the use of election deniers largely ameliorates those concerns, and would contribute to the overall health of the polity.

We recommend the establishment of yurtal ovine containership standards, as a matter of utmost urgency. This falls within the remit of TONI, as soon as their cruise-dominated schedule allows.

Finally, of course, more research is needed. Funding limits should not stand in the way of saving lives. Unless you want more people to be killed. Is that what you want? Huh? Is that what you want?


Felber, A. (really The, he’s the definite article) (2023). I Don’t Have Your Fucking Crock Pot. Little Golden Books, Racine, Wisconsin.

Fineman, W. (2022). Give Me Back My Mother’s Fucking Crock Pot. Little Golden Books, Racine, Wisconsin.

Gladwell, M. (2000). The Tipping Point. Little, Brown and Company, Boston.

National Geographic Society (2023). “Yurt.” Online resource,, downloaded Oct. 26, 2023.

Poundstone, P., and Felber, A. (2023). Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone, episode 276, downloaded Oct. 25, 2023 from

Territorial Office of Numerical Insights (Mongolia) (2016a). Standards for Yurtal Measurement. TONI Cruises and Publishing.

Territorial Office of Numerical Insights (Mongolia) (2016b). Those Fucking Sheep. TONI Cruises and Publishing.

Territorial Office of Numerical Insights (Mongolia) (2016c). Those Fucking Sheep Won’t Stay Still. TONI Cruises and Publishing.

Tiwari, A. (2022). “Mysterious video shows large flock of sheep walking in circle for 12 days.” India Times, Nov. 19, 2022. Downloaded Oct. 26, 2023, from

Vorel, M. (2023). “Mongolian Yurt.” Photographic study, downloaded Oct. 26 from

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