Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Langer Farm Sheep Faces, and Showing Off Intelligent Species

This is Sherman. Sherman is a ram and I don't know, but the last time I saw a ram he seemed a lot smaller than Sherman here. Sherman is the size of an extremely muscular shortish horse.

Interestingly his nose appears much shorter than the girls do. A sex related trait or a Sherman related trait? I don't know haven't seen enough rams lately to be competent on the issue.

But first, why all of a sudden are we talking sheep? Yesterday I went out to the Langer Farm of Mary and Bob Langer. Mary makes all kinds of incredible edible Christmas goodies so I had to go try some. It was a culinary experience, homemade caramels, fudge, turtles, peanut butter cups, Italian pressed cookies, cashew cookies, Russian tea cakes-you get the idea. It was worth getting lost both getting there and getting back home. And they had an Eagle sighting on their property not long ago.

But what about the sheep? Daughter Jenny is in 4H. For those of you unfamiliar with 4H, it's a sort of club for kids, mostly rural ones, of all ages, where you can do anything from putting on a play to, yes, raising sheep. Jenny is raising sheep. Then the sheep go off to be shown at the County Fair and if good enough, the State Fair. There are prizes and it's quite a big deal.

So after eating myself into a near diabetic coma (that's a joke) we went out to the barn to see the sheep. It struck me that sheep, which rather seem kind of interchangeably the same, really aren't. And just like any other animal that you pay close attention to, they have facial expressions along with their different faces.

By the way, everything sticks to them, as you'll notice as we go along.

Here are a couple of young ewes and they appear pretty similar. But look closely, their noses are different in length and breadth and their ears are set differently. Compare with Sherman, in the lead shot.

My apologies to the ewes, there were quite a number of them so I couldn't learn all their names in the short time I was there. I'd call this a sweet faced sheep. Also this is a pregnant sheep. Look at her abdomen. Looks kind of lumpy doesn't it? There are one if not two lambs in there and they'll be coming out very soon. Exactly when of course as with all mammal females, is always up in the air.

This is what happens if you're covered in wool which is full of lanolin which increases the sticking factor of foreign objects, and you've just pulled your head out of a manger full of hay.

And this is two month old Boo. ( He was born a few days before Halloween, hence the name.) I want to know what those bright white tufts are around his eyes. Is it part of the cuteness endowed on all baby mammals? Whatever the case you have to admit he is kind of cute and we're humans. He'd be exceedingly cute to his mother who is obviously a sheep.

All baby mammals have a kind of consistent "cute face" according to research. The Awww Factor. Why? The "cuteness" is an evolutionary advantage which helps keep exhausted, harassed, overworked, fed up parents caring for their young. Who therefore live and then breed causing even more cute babies to be born to harass and exhaust their parents and live through the experience.

This is Jenny and one of the pregnant ewes. She's doing a vaginal exam to feel if there is any cervical effacement and dilation. There's another big clue as to when a ewe will go into labor-- an examination of her udder. If there is "milk", she'll go into labor in six to eight hours.

Which brings the thought to mind that this colostrum test and time factor must not work in humans otherwise you'd think somebody would mention it so you'd have plenty of time to pack your suitcase for the hospital.

Photo by Samantha Browne-Walters

My daughter Samantha and I often talk about the intelligence of different species including our own.

Well as most of you have likely heard, 20 inches of snow fell in Manhattan. Any snowfall at all in NYC let alone enough to collect in significant amounts is rather rare. Well Sam was out earlier and saw a man shoveling the sidewalk in front of his shop and piling the snow on top of a taxi that happened to be parked at the curb. Now the question is--

1. Does this show lack of intelligence?
2. Is it intentional bad manners?
3. Or was the person just oblivious? (Though this kind of oblivion does rather lean toward lack of reasoning power doesn't it?)


I want one.

Being that Crows are some of my favorite birds and a display of their intelligence might conceivably change people's minds about the species being messy vermin that should be destroyed, it could be a good teaching tool.

I don't support making any wild species "serve us" in significant ways as they then will likely become "captives of use". Their wild status, their lives with their extended families and flocks would be disrupted and that isn't the point. Human respect for wild creatures is the point.

Humans have used captive pigeons for centuries to aid their endeavors and look at the reputation they have. We don't respect animal servants in many cases particularly if they can make it on their own in what we feel is "our" environment.

But if Crows happened upon coins in their daily foraging I see nothing wrong with them paying for their own peanuts and showing under-observant-egocentric-humans what they can do.

Donna Browne

1 comment:

sally said...

Dear Donna,

I hope your Christmas was Merry and wish you a wonderful New Year!