In the Bible in one of Jesus' stories, a few pigs run off a cliff to their death and hundreds follow – all ending up dead at the bottom off the cliff. Animals may have instincts, but they certainly didn't get the gift man had – to think and have common sense. That's why we need to use the brain God gave us and make the best decisions we can!
Here are a few examples. A couple of weeks ago several of the seven yearling sheep in a pen knocked off enough boards so they could walk thought the fence to freedom. They never go very far. They stay together, and if they find something green to nibble on that keeps them happy.
The boards were native lumber put him a dozen years ago and they were rotting out. They knocked off two boards so they had a three foot gap. Six of the seven walked through the opening without a problem. When I arrived on the scene to get them back in, there was the seventh one still in the pen. Not only was she in the pen, but instead of walking through the three-foot gap, she had stuck her head through a six-inch gap where the boards were still solid. There she was, 10 feet away from a post where she could walk through, stuck until I freed her. Not too bright.
Another example. We were moving groups of sheep around, including lambs, to work with them recently. Invariably if you get one in the right spot, the rest follow – except one. There always seems to be one that can't figure it out. He or she ends up bleating in panic and running in circles while its comrades are already gone. Yet it can't find the hole for anything. It usually needs assistance, like getting snared with a shepherd's hook and drug toward the opening. Once it finds the opening, it will usually go.
The instinct part, taking care of their young – they're pretty good at that, maybe better than some humans. They take ownership of their young, just-born lambs within minutes. A year ago, one didn't. She wanted no part of it. I had to bottle-feed the lamb and tie her up for 10 days to let it feed. Finally, a light bulb went off – maybe a dim one, but she let it nurse and finished raising it. This year she had triplets. Oh boy, I thought, three bottle-babies to feed. She claimed each one, didn't like me messing with them, and raised all three. I never had to feed one on a bottle.
So are animals 'dumb'? I would answer 'yes' in a weird kind of way. They don't have the power to think, but they have powerful instincts, perhaps better developed than instincts that people live their lives by.