Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What do Sheep think of Us?

There are times when I think sheep are indulging in a spot of ovismorphism.  It is that blank look, the unmoving eyes with their slit pupils whilst the jaws, with their one row of teeth, masticate whatever has been picked up.  Are they wondering what kind of deformed or dumb ovis ovis I am?   Does Roger the Ram wonder what kind of ovis aries Arnold or Alexandre are?
And just what use are you?

Certainly bottle fed lambs (agni) think the bottle holder is some form of ewe.  There I was, in the sheep shed, with a bottle of milk for a lamb that had been rejected by its mother.  Ewes can be difficult.  It was one of a pair of twins and came hurtling towards me when I called.  

I bent over slightly and held the bottle next to my right knee. The lamb gave my knee a couple of perfunctory head bumps and latched onto the teat.   It's stomach visibly swelled as it suckled.  A lamb that is suckling an ewe is not given as much time on the teat as a lamb on the bottle. The ewe gets bored and walks off.  The bottle fed lamb gets more milk in one go.

Then I became aware that the situation was being studied by the other twin. Its reasoning process appeared to be as follows:
brother on teat,-
mother has two teats, -
other teat must be free, -
mother (very odd shape) standing very still, -
must seize opportunity. -   

It then gave a couple of hefty head bumps to the back of my left knee, seized a fold of my jeans and started vigorously to suck. Disappointed, it gave up before the right knee lamb had finished its bottle.

The purpose of the head bumps, I have been told, is not to express any form of affection or recognition but an imperative reminder to the ewe that she must let the milk down. It is quite an endearing habit when the lamb weighs under 15 kg....  Less so when they get to be over 25 kg.. 

Once we had 3 ram lambs on the bottle and continued feeding them in the field to get them up to a proper weight.  Towards the end this meant sitting on the style, manipulating 3 one litre bottles whilst Bruiser, Boxer and Battler beat my knees, and each other, with their thick skulls.  Unfortunately, lambs have relatively long memories, perhaps they recognise one's way of walking - I don't know. Even when weaned, they would rush up and try to beat my knees.

sometimes one could do with a  third hand...

In the summer, when everyone is in the fields, the lambs are nearly fully grown and the ewes have forgotten the horrors of suckling, ovismorphism becomes even more evident.  There one is, strolling down the hill, admiring the flowers - and the sheep decide they are bored with the field.  There is a sudden, disrespectful rush past the human as they queue in front of the gate to the next field. 
Their heads swing round as they wait for the human - or oddly shaped stupid, two legged ovis ovis - to come open this gate.  The sound one hears is not 'baa' or 'beeeh'  but most definitely 'booo' until their will is done.