back to article Latest boffinry: Feeding TNT to sheep

Stateside boffins are diligently getting a small number of laboratory sheep to eat as much TNT as possible. One should point out straight away that this will not - or ought not to, anyway - involve any sheep then exploding in a sequence of fearful fleecy detonations and spattering the landscape with woolly fluff and raw mutton …


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  1. Robert Ramsay

    And I thought...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Feeding TNT to sheep

      I got happy flashbacks of WarCraft 2 instead.

  2. hplasm

    They are searching for the elusive

    Paddy McGinty's goat gene.

  3. Richard Gadsden 1

    In the true El Reg style

    "world's top expert on feeding sheep explosives". I'd love to have that on my business card.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pah, nothing new...

    Anyone playing the Worms video games have been using exploding sheep for a while.

    Does that mean that you can make fuses out of the wool then?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    That should discourage the Australians*

    (from shagging them)

    *insert Welsh, Scots, Zumerzet yokels or New Zealander as desired (by the sheep)

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Insert where?

      OK, OK, I'm going..

  6. Mike 140

    which animal?

    "Anaerobic transformation of 2,4,6-TNT by bovine ruminal microbes."

    Them's cows, them bovines is.

    1. johnnytruant

      cows, also sheep.

      "A bovid is any of almost 140 species of cloven-hoofed mammals belonging to the family Bovidae. The family is widespread, being native to Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, and diverse: members include bison, African buffalo, water buffalo, antelopes, gazelles, sheep, goats, muskoxen, and domestic cattle."

      Mine's the one made from exploding wool.

  7. stucs201


    I wanna play Worms now

  8. Refugee from Windows

    Beats the idea of premarination

    For once in a while, this idea might just work. There's plenty of other factors that make these woolly backed maggots pop their clogs, but this one seems to not be one of them. However I'd like to see the US Army deal with a load of Swaledale tups who don't want be in the same field together.

    Heart - who else mentions sheep on Valentines Day???

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Sheep grazing on TNT?

    Who'd be a bloody sheepdog in the 21st century, eh?

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
      Thumb Up

      re: sheep grazing on TNT

      If the TNT is stamped "Acme Corp" then a certain coyote is probably involved...

  10. lglethal Silver badge


    Am i the only one who immediately thought of the old game Worms with its Incredible Exploding Sheep?

  11. neb


    ...cos i thought :)

  12. Andy Hards

    Was really hoping

    that this was some new seek and destroy method of targeting the Taliban or the Welsh seperatists

  13. Eden

    Awwww :(

    And to think if they were explosive you could add a few of these to your average rural flock to dissuade those who take sheep love a little too literally, or at least turn it into something of an extreme danger sport ;)

    hand grenade for obvious reasons.

  14. MrJP

    Is it just me...

    ...or were there a tad too many, 'shoulds' and 'coulds' in there?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That does not solve the biggest TNT disposal problem

      Nobody is selling any land "contaminated" with TNT from the military any time soon. The biggest contaminant is not residue, but duff ordnance.

      If land has enough TNT as a residue to pose a risk to health, it will also have more than enough unexploaded shells and other nice "presents" to prevent it from ploughing or any other form of development.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah, but...

        ...removing the other nasties (assuming they're present in the first place - the article does mention land formerly used for explosives manufacture as well as testing) is something we seem to be pretty good at already.

        The problem would be that, even after your team of EOD personnel have swept the area clean of the material contamination you'd still be left with the chemical contamination, and given how large some of these sites could be, the prospect of having to dig up and replace all the contaminated soil would make the venture somewhat unattractive to a developer.

        1. ArmanX

          I dunno...

          I'd figure the sheep would take care of that, too.

          "Yep, them's mah sheep, eatin' them-there ex-plo-seeves."


          "...An' sometimes steppin' on 'em. You like yer mutton well done?"

  15. Simon Neill


    no supersheep then? Do we at least get bannana bombs?

  16. TRT Silver badge

    So when do we get...

    Atomic goats?

    1. HFoster

      I read that differently

      there was an extra 'e' inserted...

  17. Paul_Murphy

    What worries me...

    Isn't that the sheep explode - after all the TNT doesn't appear to be ingested.

    What worries me is their poo or wee (can I say poo or wee Sarah?) since if it's not being ingested then the TNT must be leaving the sheeps' bodies some other way.

    All of a sudden I can see walking through a field full of sheep becoming a lot more dangerous.

    And heaven help anyone that buys compost made from sheep products - there's enough nitro-cellulose in there already.


    Flame because that is what a sheep field will be resembling.

    1. Chemist

      "if it's not being ingested then the TNT"

      It's being eaten - the TNT gets into the grass, the sheep eat the grass but then the bacteria in their gut breaks down the TNT to, presumably, safer and/or more biodegradable products. These may well be absorbed/excreted/exhaled

      1. Mermaid Dick


        It's simple biochemistry. Anaerobic bacteria can use NO2-residues as electron acceptors, transforming them into amines -NH2. Aerobic bacteria use oxygen for that purpose. Antibacterials like metronidazole (Flagyl) are reduced by a similar process and kill the bacteria in the process. I don't know whether TNT is antibacterial. Might be worth a try.

    2. Private_Person

      Their urine is still explosive! (and it's got nothing to do with TNT)

      Urine, or to be more exact the soil from stables where animals had been overwintered, where the urine residue was concentrated, was an important source of saltpetre in the early modern period. Saltpetre was one of the necessary constituents of gunpowder. It was so important that one English king created a law to ensure it’s availability to the crown.

      1. Private_Person

        "its" not "it’s".

        That should be "its availability" not "it’s availability".

        It's also interesting that sheep are being used, as goats are hardier and have a higher tolerance of toxins in their diet than sheep: they can eat almost anything and survive!

  18. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Hot rodded

    We know that sheep produce methane. What I want to know is whether the digestion products from the TNT act like a "nitro" injector into their already flammable emissions. If so, anyone fancy trying to exploit this source of alternative energy?

    1. hplasm

      Be my guest-

      You can try it if you like...

  19. Simon_E

    I, for one...

    ...welcome our HE consuming Ovine Overlords.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dilemma for vegetarians?

    Surely, anything grown in the soil thus cleansed has to have animal products (the bacteria in their digestive tracts specifically) involved in their production, so carrots grown in this soil will be non-vegetarian vegetables?

    Full disclosure: I just ate flesh. Mmm, flesh.

  21. Dave Bell

    Maybe it isn't the sheep that are the problem.

    People have been talking about plants to concentrate soild contaminants for a long time. It's one of those Tomorrow's World gee-whiz revelations that seems to never arrive. I suspect that one of the problems is in harvesting the crop.

    The sheep get around that problem.

    Finding the right grass, and making sure it grows, that's hard. They're trying to bypass a lot of evolution. And somewhere such as Salisbury Plain is ecologically valuable because all the explosive stuff scattered around the landscape keeps the humans from messing around.

    1. Oninoshiko

      the world of tomarrow, TODAY!

      Actually, people are doing more then just talk about this. I know of atleast one former USAF base that is already utilizing this to clean up the soil where they used to train for fire-fighting. (I'm not sure what exactly was in the fuel they liked to spray all over the burnt-out airframes and set ablaze, but apparently it's something atleast somewhat bad). My understanding is it has been quite effective.

      That said, if sheep can make it easier/better/faster/cheaper, I say, "go sheeps!"

  22. launcap Silver badge

    Is it just me?

    Or is Jeff Minter going to bring out a new sheep games based on this? Anyone else remember Sheep In Space?

    Or am I just too old?

    Answers on an exploding sheep please. Delivered to somewhere far, far away.. (Jeff Minters brain!)

  23. Steve Dulieu

    New standard required?

    Presumably, the old maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum was based on a sheep propelled by unaugmented methane fuelled bio-rocketry. This new TNT/Methane hybrid propulsion system requires immediate research involving fag packets, backs of envelopes and unfeasibly large amounts of beer to confirm that the standard remains constant.

  24. jerry 4

    Needs more Chinese Needle Snakes

    This plan is brilliant, but it will do nothing for the Chinese Needle Snakes

  25. Joe User

    Are you sure about this?

    Sounds suspiciously like a Monty Python outtake to me....

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      y'know, I was just going to say...

      ...that it sounds like a bit cut out of the famous "Flying Sheep Sketch".

  26. Mike Flugennock

    And that good reason would be...

    ...that it'd be fun as hell.

    "Alright, guys! Instant muttonburgers!"

  27. Scorchio!!


    Isn't the god believer, Toni Bler, a sheep? Thought so, and his wife, sister in law, political colleagues. This could be a war on TNT.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Jeopardy answer & question

    Answer: Sis-Boom-Bah

    Question: What's the sound of an exploding sheep?

  29. Glenn Charles

    I'm sorry, but...

    this sounds like sheep shit to me.


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