Saturday, October 31, 2009

The sun!

Finally, sunshine! Everything is awfully soggy but we got outdoors and the animals loved it. Here’s an update picture of Mopple I took while he was grazing—not a good one but it shows his new, woolly coat.

The goats were in especially high spirits today. A bunch of does came in heat and lounged around Martok’s pen all day making goo-goo eyes while he blubbered and whooped and strutted. The poor guy’s nose is chapped from peeing on himself so much. It must be a strange life, being a buck goat!

Today I let Bon Bon’s twins, Curzon and Jadzia, out with the others to see if weaning finally took. After the first month’s separation, Bon Bon let them pick up nursing exactly where they let off. Not this time; she was having none of it, so unless they pester her so much this evening that she lets down her resolve, they’re back with Bon Bon and Latifah in the dairy shelter for good.

I shot this picture of Jadzia and one of my little Cheviot wethers (Baaxter) today. Jadzia is doing her “let’s smash our heads together” warm-up dance while a bemused Baaxter thinks, “What is wrong with this loony goat?”

Only seconds after I pressed the shutter, he took a few quick steps back and then charged and whacked her.

She stalked away in a huff, muttering that “stupid sheep don’t play fair, they smash before dancing!”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A peek at Ancon sheep

Since it’s raining buckets yet again today and I’m not spending much time outdoors training sheep and goats, I thought I'd post this sheepy excerpt from my upcoming Storey book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock. The photo is from Life magazine, 1947.


Ancon Sheep—a Cautionary Tale

“In 1791, so it seems, a Massachusetts farmer named Seth Wright owned a flock of fifteen ewes and a ram of the ordinary kind. These sheep, as sheep are wont to do, were fond of leaping over the stone walls that fenced them in. Once out on their own, they raided Wright’s neighbors’ fields. So, imagine Farmer Wright’s surprise (and delight) when one of his ewes produced a most uncommon ram lamb, long of body and incredibly short of leg. Sheep like this, Wright correctly deduced, could not jump over stone fences

“So, Farmer Wright culled his normal ram, the short-legged ram’s sire, and bred the short-legged ram to his flock of ewes. The first year only two short-legged lambs were born. However, when he began breeding short-legged to short-legged sheep, the animals began to reliably reproduce their kind. And thus the Otter (later to be known as Ancon) breed of sheep was born.

“Charles Darwin considered Ancon sheep a perfect example of macroevolution. In Origin of Species, first published in 1859, he referred to the Ancon thus, 'It is a rare thing for a striking variety to spring as suddenly as this into existence, and it is singular that the peculiarity should be preserved unmixed in the cross or half-breed; but in other respects it is common-place enough and only represents what men do every day with their cattle, poultry, horses and dogs, and what is done by every nursery gardener in rearing plants. Whenever a breeder sees any peculiarity appear amongst his animals which he considers valuable, he carefully preserves the individual that shows it, and by pairing it with other individuals that manifest a tendency towards it, and selecting such of the offspring as have most perfectly inherited it, he succeeds in perpetuating and greatly improving it.'

“But was it an improvement? Ancons were achondroplastic dwarfs, a type of genetic dwarfism characterized by slow limb growth relative to the rest of the skeleton. Their condition was caused by a mutation that results in the failure of the cartilage between their joints to develop. Numerous other abnormalities existed, including abnormal spines and skulls, flabby subscapular (deep shoulder) muscles, loose leg joint articulations, and badly deviated inward forelegs. Adult Ancons were clumsy cripples that could neither run nor jump like other sheep; that they suffered from crippling arthritis is a given. The breed had so many major health problems that it became extinct decades ago.

“So as the adage goes, ‘It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature’. Should cute, mutated dwarfs happen along, it’s wise to choose not to propagate them. There are scores of breeds of small and miniature livestock available for producers and hobbyists to raise. Let’s do our best to raise animals that enjoy good quality of life.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More sheepy this 'n that

Here's another tidbit of sheepiana I've collected. It's a tale from Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria, a book published in 1910.

The sheep to the right is Lori Olson's Wooby (Misty Glyn Gwyn ap Nuad), a Miniature Cheviot ram who is living with us until Lori gets another farm. Wooby is a paternal half-brother to our first ram, Abram (Wolf Moon Finvarra), who sired our present ram, Rumbler (Wolf Moon Rumbler) and quite a few of our ewes.

Sheep Tales ~ The Story of Lightning and Thunder

In the olden days the thunder and lightning lived on the earth amongst all the other people, but the king made them live at the far end of the town, as far as possible from other people's houses.

The thunder was an old mother sheep, and the lightning was her son, a ram. Whenever the ram got angry he used to go about and burn houses and knock down trees; he even did damage on the farms, and sometimes killed people. Whenever the lightning did these things, his mother used to call out to him in a very loud voice to stop and not to do any more damage; but the lightning did not care in the least for what his mother said, and when he was in a bad temper used to do a very large amount of damage. At last the people could not stand it any longer, and complained to the king.

So the king made a special order that the sheep (Thunder) and her son, the ram (Lightning), should leave the town and live in the far bush. This did not do much good, as when the ram got angry he still burnt the forest, and the flames sometimes spread to the farms and consumed them.

So the people complained again, and the king banished both the lightning and the thunder from the earth and made them live in the sky, where they could not cause so much destruction. Ever since, when the lightning is angry, he commits damage as before, but you can hear his mother, the thunder, rebuking him and telling him to stop. Sometimes, however, when the mother has gone away some distance from her naughty son, you can still see that he is angry and is doing damage, but his mother's voice cannot be heard.

- Elphinstone Dayrell, Folk Stories From Southern Nigeria (1910)

Friday, October 23, 2009

More famous sheep (please keep 'em coming!)

More Famous Sheep

Private Derby. Swaledale ram mascot of the British 95th Derbyshire Regiment (pictured at the right on a vintage postcard from my sheep ephemera collection)

Russell. Who lived in Frogsbottom Field in Rob Scotton’s charming children’s book, Russell the Sheep

Casserole. Kept by the Kennedy family in the Australian TV program, Neighbours, and Chop, the Kennedy's second sheep, introduced after Casserole's funeral

Lily Lamb. From Disney’s Minnie 'n Me

Timmy. A lamb in the Shaun the Sheep spin-off, Timmy Time (Aardman Animations)

Black Sheep. The black sheep of the family, he is a cousin of Cow and Chicken in the Cow & Chicken cartoons

Hiro Sohma. In the Japanese manga comics and anime series, Fruit Basket, Hiro Sohma is a human boy who morphs into the Zodiac ram

Derek the Sheep and Lenny the Sheep. Of the British comic strip, The Beano

Rammie. Mascot of the Derby County Football (rugby) Club in Derby, England

Mary’s little lamb. Who “followed her to school one day, school one day, schol one day...”

Ship. Imaginary friend and “counting sheep” in the Webcomic, Count Your Sheep

Larry the Lamb. Co-star of the British children’s radio series, Toytown, part of the BBC series, Children’s Hour, broadcast from 1922 through 1964.

Maghatch. The witch mouflon in Gary Kilworth’s heroic fantasy novel, Thunder Oak

Mopple the Whale and the other sheep (Othello, Miss Maple, Maude, Zora, Melmoth, Sir Ritchfield, Heather, Cloud, Ramses, Sarah, Lane, Cordelia, Maise, Willow, Fosco, and the Winter Lamb) in Leonie Swann’s wonderful sheep detective novel, Three Bags Full (published as Glennkill in Europe)

Louise the Lamb. Of the British children’s TV program, Muffin the Mule

Chirin. Sheep protagonist of the sad, 1978 Japanese anime film, Ringing Bell (Sanrio)

Georgina, Gogol, and Hubert. Sheep in the British Children’s BBC animated series, Sheeep (yes, with three e’s) aired in 2000

Sergeant Woolly Pullover, Commodore Fleece Cardigan, Major Legger Mutton, Pilot Fluff Pendleton, Master Sargent Cornelius Cannonfodder, Private Bull Bellwether, Commander Missiles Muttonchop, and Lieutenant Sureshot Shearling. R.A.M.S. in the Barnyard Commandos animated series (1984; Marikami-Wolf-Swenson Productions) and action figures collection (Playmates).

Lammy and his evil twin, Rammy. From the video game, UnJammer Lammy

Rain, rain (and more rain)

I haven’t posted anything for awhile because everything is sodden, my pretty black and white lamb is grimy, and is still not much afoot around here anyway.

It’s cold, supposed to be down in the low 30’s overnight, but since the downpour abated (at least for awhile), I put Mopple and Edmund back out with the old sheep this afternoon. I had them back in their former pen for awhile so they’d stay warmer and dryer inside their Port-a-Hut, as opposed to the more open-air field shelter with the old ones. They have lots of wool already and don’t appear to mind getting wet, considering they voluntarily venture out to graze during the worst of it.

If I can’t do something with Mopple soon, I’ll start posting some sheepy fun stuff I’m collecting for the upcoming Storey sheep book, though it may be off in the distant future for awhile. Well, what the heck—might as well post an item this time too.

For your pleasure…

Famous Sheep

Dolly. The world's first cloned sheep

Bonnie. The first cloned sheep's first lamb

Maltilda. The first Australian cloned sheep

Lambchop. Sheri Lewis's wisecracking sidekick

Mrs. Sheep and Lambs. The sheep in Lambert the Sheepish Lion (Disney Studios)

The Toast of Botswana. One of the world's only two scientifically verified geep (half goat, half sheep)

Lisa. The cute German geep born a few years ago.

Dimitri. Balki's toy sheep (Perfect Strangers)

Shaun the Sheep. Wallace and Grommit's sheepy co-star in A Close Shave (Aardman Animations)

George. Sheepy star of the comic strip, Lost Sheep

Shrek. A famous Merino wether who eluded shearers for six years and grew a 60 pound fleece

Harold. The clever sheep (Monty Python's Flying Circus)

Mouth. Hammerhead Hannigan's bowtie-bedecked sidekick in Darkwing Duck (Disney Studios)

The Serta sheep. Out-of-work spokes-sheep for a major mattress company

Lanolin and Bo. Barnyard pals from the U.S. Acres comic strip

Maa. The Very Old Border Leicester ewe in Babe (Universal Pictures)

Bimbaabaa. The lamb in The Little Drummer Boy (a Bass/Rankin film)

Po and Merry. Sheep in the Stray Sheep cartoons

Mishun H. Sugworth. Also known as Mint Sauce, from the cartoon strip of the same name

Danny. Jeremiah's black lamb in So Dear to My Heart (Disney Studios)

Cardigan. Wilbur's friend in Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure (Paramount Studios)

Please let me know if you think of additional famous sheep!
Update: I've been Googling famous sheep tonight and came up with quite a few more names. I'll post them on a supplementary list to follow this one!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The old ones...

Not much afoot here. My neck is bothering me unmercifully (I went to our chiropractor for an adjustment two weeks ago and he put my neck out—it’s a weird story), so I’m not able to be at the computer as much as I’d like to (or for that matter, need to be). I’m nearly finished with the Storey meat goat book update, then will officially start Have a Cow, although I already have about 12,000 words finished, doing some here and there as time permits.

On Sunday, John and Robert, the man we hire to help build fences, put up the dividing fence in the elder sheep pasture, though the gate still needs to be hung. When it is, Edmund and Mopple will move in with the elders. Then the kids (The Red Brothers and Bon Bon’s twins) will have their own paddock and shelter.

Our old ones are Baasha and Dodger. Both are quite arthritic but seem to enjoy their lives and as long as they do, we’ll keep them going.

Baasha is a registered Miniature Cheviot and will be 14 in March. She’s a cutie, my favorite sheep, and mom, grandma, great-grandma, or great-great-grandma to all of our other little sheep. She’s very sweet and gentle—a really stellar little ewe whose sire came from the Brighton flock upon which the Miniature Cheviot breed is based.

We’re not sure how old Dodger is but we’ve had him six years and he was no spring chicken when he moved in. Besides that, he’s a Hampshire wether, a huge meat breed wooly sheep not bred for longevity.

Dodger belonged to a 4-H boy in southern Arkansas who refused to send him to slaughter at the end of the 4-H fair (what a great kid!). Then he and our Wiltshire Horn cross ewe, Angel, performed in “The Witness” (, the musical Passion play held throughout the summer months in Hot Springs, Arkansas. When they needed a retirement home, Anita Messenger of Liberty Ranch knew I wanted some pet sheep, so they came here to live out the rest of their days.

I'm lucky to have such neat sheep!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Now for something completely different...

Maybe Mopple can learn to pack too! I don’t know why not. I ran across the first quote in this series while doing yak research for Storey’s Have a Cow.

I’d heard of Himalayan pack sheep but never any specifics. Sheep aren’t a supple as goats but they’re just as strong and they follow just as well. I can’t imagine a modern wool breed sheep in fleece wearing a pack saddle (ow!) but a hair sheep? Yeah, I do…

Quotes from books in public domain downloaded for free at Google Books (

The yak-cow and hardy mountain sheep are the favourite beasts of burden in the inner ranges. The little yak-cow, whose bushy tail is manufactured in Europe into lace, patiently toils up the steepest gorges with a heavy burden on her back. The sheep, laden with bags of borax, are driven to marts on the outer ranges near the plains, where they are shorn of their wool, and then return to the interior with a load of grain or salt.

- The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume VI, W.W. Hunter. London: Trübner & Company, 1886

The principal beast of burden in the Himalayas is the Mountain sheep. It is said to comfortably draw a load of about twenty-five pounds and lives entirely on the herbage on the wayside. It has been known to travel a journey of 1000 miles and be little the worse for wear. Animals of this class were used in the Younghusband expedition in Tibet. It is common in the Himalayas to load sheep high up in the mountains with borax and then drive them down to the plains, shear them and return with loads, shear them and return with loads of grain or salt. They stand the severe cold of the higher ranges of Tibet better than any other animal, and are indispensable to the needs of transit of the people there.

- William James Clarke, Modern Sheep: Breeds and Management. Chicago: American Sheep Breeder Company, 1907

In some parts of India the sheep is even used as a beast of burden, carrying loads of 35 to 40 pounds over rough tracks, and up steep crags, where almost no other animal could be employed.

- Chambers’s Encyclopaedia, Volume VII. New York: Collier, 1887

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sheep lips

We went to Hirschs’, the farm store in Thayer (MO) today to pick up feed. I stayed in the truck, organizing some writing material.

When John came out he said, “They have sheep lips, so I bought some.”

My mouth fell open. “Sheep lips?” I said. “Why would you buy sheep lips?”

Turns out he said SheepLix, as in tubs of sheep minerals in a molasses base as manufactured by the Sweetlix Company.

Most resources say it’s best to provide granulated minerals for sheep and goats but our goats simply won’t eat it. I have partial bags of five or six brands in the feed room right now and I’ve tried several more besides. They poop in the granulated mix holders—I know it has to be a game because there are always berries mingling with the minerals. I’m tired of throwing it out on a daily basis, so we’re going back to lix tubs (which the goats love but we’ve never tried with our sheep before today).

The bad thing (besides adding a lot of sugar to their diets) is that the goats smear it all over themselves. Here is a picture of the beautiful Affinity (UP Affinity) that I shot earlier today. Look at that mug—and you should see how much is smeared along her sides!