Monday, December 15, 2008

Livestock guardian play

Once the New Fork River freezes, we have to move our sheep herd from the south side of a highway to the north side, into a pasture with an artesian well. On Saturday morning, we walked the herd underneath a highway bridge on a narrow trail along the frozen river, and they ended up out in a huge meadow where our cow herd also spends the winter. Luv's Girl, an adult Akbash guardian dog, came along with the herd, as did its three burros. We turned the rams out into the ewe flock, and then I ran back to the house and got three other sheep that had been bedded with the Aziat pups and turned them out as well.

All this commotion caused pains to our guard animals, especially to the older pair of burros, which don't like any change at all. But the fun part to watch was the introduction of new sheep into the herd and how the guardians respond to that. Luv's Girl (adult Akbash dog) and Roo (young burro) both hurried to inspect the new sheep, but in their hurry, they realized they were competing with each other for attention. So they turned their attention to each other.

Luv's Girl stood her body broadside against the burro's front legs, so the burro couldn't pass. The burro chewed on the dog's long hair on the back of her neck, with the dog tilting her head back until the burro had the flesh on the top of the dog's skull in her mouth. I'm thinking from the expression on the dog's face that it felt like a massage.

The dog and burro ended up standing there, with the dog leaning against the burro's front legs for a few minutes, before the dog walked away and the burro went back to the fresh line of hay in the snow.

Later in the day, I took Rena (1 1/2 year old Akbash) over to see her mother, Luv's Girl. I love to watch them play because they are so graceful. I like this shot of the open mouths. That's Rena on the right.

Rena is on the left in this photo. It can be difficult to tell mother and daughter apart, but the sheep know at a glance which is which and respond accordingly.


Matt Mullenix said...


prairie mary said...

Cat, I'm loving all your posts, but this one was esp. appealing. Something about socializing across the species that isn't about humans.

Prairie Mary

Cat Urbigkit said...

Thanks Matt and Prairie Mary. I love watching how the animals, both wild and domestic, interact with each other on the ranch, and try to keep a camera within reach to document the fun stuff. One of the dogs, Rena, likes to run up to the burros and "hug" them, so I'll try to catch that on camera one of these days, so I can show you that as well.

Anonymous said...

I always forward links to your posts to a friend with sheep and various huge guard dogs,,wonderful photos,,!

Maggie in WI