-Hundreds of sheep up and down the country branded with smiley face
-Faces seen in areas including Leicestershire, Devon and Perthshire
-One farmer said phenomenon was 'like crop circles-but on sheep'
By James Rush
Hundreds of sheep have been painted with a bizarre 'smiley face' symbol in fields across the country.
The strange image has sparked debate on social networking sites after it was first reported on 20 animals in a field in Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire.
There have since been sightings in a further five fields across the UK, including Perthshire in Scotland, and 500 miles south in Exeter, Devon.
And people have taken to Twitter to share pictures of the unexplained phenomenon, using the hashtag #creepysheep.
Many are questioning how the eerie symbol came to be etched on the animals - with some talking of 'supernatural powers' and 'UFOs'.
Even farmers appear baffled, with one saying: 'It is like crop circles - but on sheep.'
The symbol appears to have been painted on both sides of randomly chosen animals at each of the affected farms.
It looks like a smiley face, with two spiralling eyes and a long, connecting, mouth.
More than 100 sheep are thought to have been targeted in total.
Farmer Ros Turner, whose sheep have been 'tagged' in Melton Mowbray, said: 'Passing motorists and walkers have had to double take.
'They can't quite believe what they are seeing and I've had a few people stop me and ask what is going on.
'They seem to think it is some supernatural power or the work of passing aliens or UFOs.
'It's like crop circles - but on sheep.
'The animals do not seem to have been affected in any way. They are still grazing and going about their day to day lives in the usual way.'
One Twitter user, @liamgeoghegan, said: 'What's going on with these weird looking sheep? What's the smiley face thing all about? #CreepySheep.'
And another, @Ben-Mulock, said: 'Ha! Some sheep in The Borough look like they've been tattooed! Maybe it's for some kind of show?'
Ellie Stokeld, another affected farmer, from Great Ayton, near Middlesborough, said: 'The symbol looks bizarre but it makes a nice change to the sheeps' usual plain white coats.'
'You can't help but laugh when you see the sheep in the field with the smiley faces on the side.'
A tweet from @carlasilverman said: 'Just walked past these random sheep! What on earth is going on here?'
And @champychampy said: 'Someone's given these sheep a makeover.'