Monday, January 16, 2012

A Detour to Triplet Sheep Plus Play Behavior: Cleatus the Duck, Rocky the Goat and Ice Man the Ram

The reason we're suddenly talking sheep is Ida Mae's fault. Well she and her triplets.

Not to worry we'll be back to Bobby's new girl, and the sledding Corvid tomorrow, as while I've been doing sheep, blog readers and contributors Eleanor MacDonald and Diane D'arcy have been on the job and on our current topic. I roped Robin of Illinois into helping with sheep. Many thanks Robin!

But back to Ida Mae. I got a call that Ida Mae had done a rare thing for an animal with only two teats. She'd had triplets. So I figured I'd run over, take a few pictures of the triplets for the newspaper and get back on the real job of the day- Red-tails and the Corvid who Sleds.

When I took the sheep pix in, the publisher decided I should write a story about Ida Mae and the triplets, so late in the day Monday I was suddenly doing a crash course on sheep.

I learned many fascinating things.
Not all of them useful.

Courtesy of Sheep 201-A Beginner's Guide to Raising Sheep

Like the fact that some breeds of sheep have wooly scrotums.

Who knew?

But having my mind on "play" in different species due to the sledding Corvid it also gave me time to process some of the "play" I observed amongst the animals shut in the sheep shed due to the first heavy snow.

Meet Cleatus the Duck.

Cleatus and the Cat watch the ram and the goat play.

Then Cleatus puts his head down and jumps at the cat. The cat runs and Cleatus chases her. Big fun.

I wondered why Cleatus wasn't hassling the Cat like a normal duck, i.e. Cleatus would jump at the cat with his neck stretched and bill out. The cat would run. Then eventually the cat would hide and jump out at Cleatus later. A common form of interspecies fun.

Here are the two playing animals that Cleatus and Cat were watching.

The rump on the left belongs to Ice Man a young Dorset ram.
On the right is his pen mate, Rocky the young goat.

Notice that Ice Man has now braced his back legs. Rocky has gone to the far side of the pen and is leaping toward the ram. The reason Ice Man is bracing forward is because Rocky is going to leap over to Ice Man, put his head down, and the two ruminants will butt heads with a resounding crash. Then they'll do it again.

I wondered if this "play" may have, with the youthful rush of all that testosterone, gotten a little out of hand and perhaps Ice Man, even though larger, wasn't having as much fun as Rocky was and perhaps was just defending himself. Not the case it seems because one day the family heard Ice Man bawling his head off. Somebody went to check on him and found that the reason he was bawling was because Rocky had escaped from the pen and Ice Man wanted him to come back.

Could all this jumping and head down butting between the goat and sheep have affected how the duck plays with the cat?

It seems unlikely but then why isn't the duck acting like a duck?

So many questions and so few answers.

A Wild Hooded Crow "talks" Back... he keeps responding anyway


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