Showing posts with label sheep. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sheep. Show all posts

August 23, 2017

Fighting for the Flock — The Life of Livestock Guardian Dogs

“Where the Dogs Are, the Wolves Cannot Be” (A Turkish shepherd) 

I grew up with hunting dogs, and I knew a few herding dogs. I knew about the world of little dogs riding in big motorhomes, the world of mutts who went everywhere, and the world of generic black-and-white farm collies who never sat paw in the main family house but still had full, purposeful dog lives.

But there is another dog world about which I knew little, and that is the world where dogs fight wolves.

Cat and Jim Urbigkit raise sheep on private land and public-land leases in western Wyoming. Living south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, their flocks must contend not just with “mesopredators” such as foxes and coyotes, but “apex predators” as well: wolves, black bears, and grizzlies, all enjoying some degree of legal protection. Nor do Cat and Jim wish to exterminate those wolves and grizzlies, merely to keep them off the sheep.
Rena was there to meet them when the wolves leapt into the pasture. One hundred thirty pounds of determined Akbash sheep guardian dog, she met the wolves head-on, brawling in the distance from the herd, in the darkness, in the rain. When the wolves attacked, Rena could face one, as the other attacked her rear. The wolves sunk their teeth into her haunches, nearly severing her tail at its based and biting her tender underside. Fighting for both her own life as well as the lives on her sheep, Rena battled on, keeping the wolves from reaching the herd.
Rena was the subject of her own book, The Guardian Team: On the Job With Rena and Roo, Roo being a guardian burro (effective against coyotes but not bears or wolves).

A few years ago the Urbigkits received funding from the state of Wyoming to study livestock guardian dogs in other countries, including Spain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Lesotho, and Central Asia — all places with long traditions of using guardian dogs in addition to herding dogs.

These dogs grow up alongside the sheep. They must guard the sheep against predators, yet not be too hostile to humans and other dogs. It is a difficult balance.

In her new book Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs, Cat Urbigkit writes not just for the livestock producers who could use guardian dogs, but for anyone who might encounter them on the range — or for anyone who likes reading about dogs. You hear not from them, but from the herders and dog breeders (usually the same people) of Bulgaria, Turkey, etc.

She told one interviewer,
“The thing I liked most was that I got to meet Spanish mastiff dogs in Spain, and I wasn’t expecting how effective or large they are,” she says. “The dogs are very effective against wolves, and we visited ranches in central Spain that had bands of sheep living with packs of wolves on the same ranch. When you have 11 Spanish mastiff dogs with a thousand head of sheep and very few losses, that’s an amazing record.”
Finally, if you are out on the range and encounter guardian dogs, keep your distance. If you are bicycling, dismount. The dogs (and wildlife) regard a bicycle as a predator — it is quiet, fast-moving, and has big eyes in front (sunglasses, goggles, and they may react appropriately.

December 29, 2015

Bear with Me — There's More

Bear enjoying late-season tomatoes.
More links that I need to clear . . . 

• "The Hermit: New Mexico's First Mountaineer" — it's a story of religion, violence, penitence, and isolation, in other words, New Mexico.

• Some birds do well in cities and suburbs. How can we help them?

• We are told the decades of forest-fire suppression has led to hotter, bigger files. But a CU study suggests that severe fires are not new on Colorado's Front Range.  

Plans to sequence the genome of the oldest dogs found in North America.

Outdoor magazine's best 25 books for well-read explorers. Old Glory, yes!

• Everyone hears about Coronado's expedition in the American southwest,  no one about Francisco Leyva de Bonilla's. Maybe that is because it was such as disaster.

• Saving a big piece of southeastern Colorado's canyon country. And a chunk of the High Plains east of Pueblo.

Why are we still talking about Chris "Supertramp" McCandless?
Twenty-three years after his death, McCandless still has people talking — debating his cause of death, condemning his choices and discussing how perhaps they, too, can leave everything behind and walk into the wild.
A "river of sheep" in northwestern Colorado. Good photos.

September 09, 2014

Transhumance Today


From northwestern Wyoming, Cat Urbigkit posts a brief video of her family's sheep coming down from summer range. The dogs, of course, are at the end.

She writes,
This video demonstrates transhumance — the season movement of livestock and people, something that occurs throughout the American West. Most range flocks include about 1,000 ewes, accompanied by their lambs.
This Wyoming flock is owned by a family ranch, one of 600 range outfits in the West. Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and this was my family's way of celebrating what wilderness means to us — cheers to man and beast!
All the dogs with black coloration are herding dogs (5 or 6 with this herd). There were 7-9 livestock guardian dogs with this bunch as well - both white and some red-coloration (representing Akbash and Central Asian Ovcharka lineages).

May 31, 2013

Heroes Are Made, Not Born

I am not sure where the division of society into "sheep," "sheepdogs," and "wolves" began, but the author of this three-part series, "Are You a Sheep or a Sheepdog" attributes it to the author Dave Grossman.

Part 1: Are You a Sheep or a Sheepdog?

Part 2: 8 Reason's You're Hardwired for Sheepness

Part 3: Your Roadmap to Becoming a Sheepdog.

Whatever the source, it's a useful classification system. And as the author notes, we are mostly born "sheep."
Grossman isn’t using the term pejoratively, he’s simply referring to the fact that most human beings are kind, gentle, and peaceful. The conflicts and ethical dilemmas they’re regularly faced with rarely rise to the level of life and death, good versus evil. For the most part people deal with challenges that are more annoyances than true crises. And when faced with conflict, they generally try to do the right thing, avoid making waves, and demonstrate pro-social behavior.
We are followers. We don't trust our intuition. We think, "It can't happen here." We suffer from "normalcy bias" and the "bystander effect."
33-year firefighting veteran Jack Rowley saw normalcy bias play out on a regular basis at bars in Columbus, Ohio. Fires were surprisingly common at bars on Saturday nights and whenever Rrowley showed up, he’d see smoke quickly filling up the establishment. But instead of mayhem, he’d find folks just sitting at the bar “nursing their beers.” He’d ask them to evacuate and the customers would say, “No, we’ll be just fine.”
Speaking of the real sheepdogs, Wyoming sheep rancher and writer Cat Urbigkit is in the middle of lambing season, and her livestock guardian dogs are earning their keep. (That is one of her book covers up above.)

July 24, 2011

Blog Stew with Ticking Sheep

• Using sheep as tick bait in Scotland, partly to preserve the traditions of the Glorious Twelfth. Clever, but probably would not work in North America.

• What the American Kennel Club has in common with the Roman Catholic Church—and not in a good way.

• A National Park Service ranger (you know, the helpful ones) goes all "respect my authoritah" on a middle-aged female tourist. Sounds like NPS vehicles should have those helpful dashboard video cameras, like in Canton, Ohio.

April 05, 2008

Stone Men

Archaeologist Anthony Swenson expounds reasonably on sheepherder's cairns. (Scroll to the bottom.) I had not heard the term Stone Johnnies before.

My father spent part of his Forest Service career riding the sheep range of the San Juan Mountains in SW Colorado, which is why if you asked him to say something in Spanish, he would reply,"¿Cuántas borregas tiene?"

He always offered the explanation, "They built them to have something to do."

The navigational-marker explanation makes sense in open country, but I have also seen the cairns in high mountain valleys where a person could not easily get lost without going over a ridge.

Of course, if you ask the modern-day shepherd why that cairn is there, he'll likely shrug and say 'don't know', but even if he doesn't know who built it or why, he still knows it's on the next ridge north of his camp. Thus, they continue to serve as landmarks, even if those who employ them as such have forgotten that they were built for that purpose. Which, when you think about it, is fairly delightful. How many man-made objects can you think of that continue to perform their intended function long after we've forgotten what that function was?

November 13, 2005

Fleeced - 2

(Note that this story, blogged earlier, happened in Wales.)

Here is another story out of Wales, about a teacher whose pupils knew more than she did. It's the one under the headline "Unknown Knowns."

It helps if you realize that Leeds is an northern English industrial city, whereas north Wales has been sheep country since there were sheep. All the jokes that Coloradans tell about Wyoming ("Wyoming: Where men are men, and sheep are nervous") were probably told about north Wales in 4th-century P-Celtic dialects.

November 12, 2005

Fleeced

A living-history show on the British Broadcasting Corp. had participants living like 17th-century farmers.

Sitting here in a cool house in a synthetic fleece sweater, I read this, one of several bits of wisdom that the time-travelers learned:

Dress for practicalities. Today fashion and social convention dictate our wardrobes. While polar fleeces and high-performance tramping boots may be all the rage when going rural, the wardrobe of 400 years ago proved more comfortable. "While the crew shivered in their modern garb, we never felt the cold in just two layers - a linen shirt and woollen doublet," says archaeologist Alex Langlands. Breeches meant no wet and muddy trouser legs, and staying covered up - rather than stripping off in the heat - prevented bites, stings, sunburn and scratches.