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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sheep dogs

Driving around, I see flocks of sheep and herds of goats, watched over by sheep dogs. I don't know much about sheep, goats, or dogs that watch over them, beyond what I personally have observed in passing.

Sheepdogs seem to like to couch themselves in the shade of a nearby bush or tree, within about 30 yards of the outside edge of the main herd or flock. They seem to appreciate the solitude of a certain away-ness from other animals, including their charge. They also appear to ignore the animals that they guard, lying on the ground like alpaca rugs.

But approach the fence, and they'll get up on their feet. Keep standing there, or start to enter the pasture, and they'll bark at you. They will keep barking at you as long as you remain what they consider a possible threat to their charge. Back away, go get back into your car, and they'll lie down with their eye on you.

Their thick coats are universally matted, and they look a little slovenly, and because they lie near the flock or herd, they appear lazy. But they will look pretty spry when it's time to defend. They actually look fairly fierce, when they want to. Reportedly they can back up their bark, when the flock is set upon by coyotes, dogs, or wolves.

Most people look at the big shaggy dogs lying in the pastures with pity. But they seem to appreciate the life.

How interesting that we have bred such a useful breed of dog.

And I'd be lying if I didn't admit to doing a little anthropomorphizing, drawing some parallels with humanity.

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3 Comments:

At Wednesday, October 15, 2008 6:30:00 PM, Anonymous LabRat said...

You might appreciate a brief closer look into the world of these dogs here and here. No big tome of information, just a few pictures and a small slice of life.

One of the arguments being used by a minority of zoologists against the origin of the domestic dog from the wolf- at least, the species C. lupus- is that wolves will kill sufficiently small dogs on sight and sufficiently large dogs will kill wolves on sight. Stock guardians are exemplars of this... a seasoned working dog won't just *stand up* to a coyote or wolf, it will run them down over miles and kill them.

 
At Thursday, October 16, 2008 8:26:00 AM, Blogger fastbike said...

The dog will stay away from the flock because the stock gets a bit jumpy when the dog is in close. A dog in close usually means they're about to be herded, and that comes with nips for the slow.

 
At Saturday, October 18, 2008 6:55:00 AM, Blogger Carteach0 said...

Interesting observations.....

Understood.

 

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