Defensive ram

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by Meg Z, May 14, 2006.

  1. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    I've recently put the pastures and animal areas off limits to visitors...family only. My animals have always been very people friendly, when I'm around, but I don't want to take chances, especially now with sheep. Especially after two friends recently told me that they had come to visit, but since we weren't home, they 'took the kids to see the animals' anyway! :grump: Okay, the petting zoo is CLOSED! There's now a sign on every entrance to an animal area that says 'Danger: Keep Out!'

    Anyway, some girls from school were visiting, and were a bit put out that they were no longer allowed in with the livestock. My 20 year old son, Joe, came to check out the girls, and heard me explain that 'family only' was the new policy. I went in to bring out a goat kid for them to pet. As I came out with the kid, Joe went in...showing off for the cute girl.

    Well, the ram, General Lee, took exception to a stranger in his pasture. It's the first time Joe has gone in the pasture since we've had the sheep. He does nothing with the livestock. Although Lee has never minded someone in with me, this stranger was inside, and I was outside. He 'treed' Joe in the corner by the gate. He made short warning charges, of about two or three feet, and snorted at him. He never touched Joe, but stopped short about two feet away from him each time. Joe was scared, as he should have been. (Lee has full horns.) When I went in to help, Lee calmed down, and I held him while Joe got out.

    Now, aggressive he was not, but he was very defensive of his territory, and I'm actually pleased to see it. Perhaps he's the reason the foxes have only taken muscovies, and not newborn lambs. I'm also pleased that he calmed down when I went back in.

    I'll still keep a baseball bat in my hand and a pistol in my belt during rut, though!

    So, I'm curious. What type of behavior do you encourage or discourage in your livestock. I won't keep an animal that attacks us, be it rooster or whatever. But I have no problem with an animal defending. If a stranger went in the chicken yard and my normally sweet tempered roos attacked them, I'd applaud that, too. I know some people see any type of defense as aggression, and there certainly is a line that could be crossed there. Personally, I wait until they cross it before I cull, but I cull fast if they do. So, what's your take?

    Meg
     
  2. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    I have two takes on this. First your ram was being a ram and his behaviour was not out of character. He is the male of the species and defending his territory. As far as he's concerned your son or anybody else he doesn't know is a threat.

    Second, I categorically will not have people wandering around my farm without me as they can end up being a danger to themselves and a danger to my stock. The farm isn't a playground. I keep bulls, rams and boars all of which are capable of showing the same territorial behaviour as your ram. Even young cattle can get skittish and silly with a stranger in their paddock and start chasing them.

    So, as far as I'm concerned, your initial statement is correct - people can see and pet the animals so long as you are in tow.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     

  3. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    Well, I certainly don't encourage my ram to tree anyone, lol! Of course, I'm dealing with a similar situation here right now, and quite honestly I don't care how good the genetics are; if there's a chance of someone getting hurt, the ram heads down the road. In my case, that likely will be the freezer unless someone else wants to take him on.

    Doesn't matter if it's a stranger trespassing or a family member, someone getting hurt isn't worth it. The fact that you've allowed people in in the past will only open you up to more trouble, I suspect, if someone thinks that they're exempt from your signs because you've let them in before. I think you'll be in for quite a legal battle should someone get hurt.

    JMHO...of course, but I see the difference between aggression and defensiveness as this: Defending is when someone is threatening you. Was your son approaching the ram? Was he attempting to catch him? Or was he just in the pasture? If someone can't walk through the pasture without being hassled by the ram, then I'd call the ram aggressive. And around here, there's no room for an aggressive animal. Think about it this way; if your ram got loose, would someone be able to catch him and get him back into his pen without risking their own safety?
     
  4. GrannieD

    GrannieD Well-Known Member

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    I don't believe in doing psych work-ups on animals...Why a male is doing the act doesn't matter if you have a broken leg or are down for the count..Facts of life with a ram or bull or gander or rooster or any other aggressive animal is they don't have a vote as they don't pay the bill..It was funny to my BIL when I had to listen for the belled ram at their farm so I could try for the outhouse without confronting him...it was funny until he had him hit his brand new pick-up door as BIL was escaping an attack..it almost caught BIL's head in the door as it slammed shut...No more jingle-bells when I came to visit...If you are already down a baseball bat & pistol aren't a lot of help...GrannieD
     
  5. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    Interesting comments.

    First, I wasn't clear on two points. When I said that my animals had always behaved with me present, it did not mean that people are still allowed in the animal areas with me. No one is allowed in. I was speaking about the past...before the sheep came. Currently, I will bring out a kid or lamb that is willing to be petted. A few adults will come to the fence and allow petting. Lee has not been aggressive or even defensive to strangers on the ouside of the fence.

    Second, yes, Joe was trying to approach the ram. He thought he could pet him. Lee said no.

    And I guess we'll have to differ here. I do want my animals to defend against a stranger in their pasture or barn. Unlike the outhouse scenario, there's no place to go when you are crossing the pasture. It's not a thoroughfare! And along with the signs, I've spread the word that folks are not allowed in, and that I was outraged that people thought they could come by my place and visit the animals when I wasn't home, much less without permission. I now have a reputation for having a bad temper.

    And I also believe in looking at the source of behavior in any animal, including the human one. Which is why I would exercise more caution during rut. The behavior can change dramatically during those times due to hormones. Somewhat similar to a teenage boy! :rolleyes:

    Thanks for the replies. It's always nice to see how other people think.

    Meg
     
  6. Terry W

    Terry W Duchess of Cynicism

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    Meg,
    You have a good handle on animal behaviour-- Defense of territory and "tribe' is NOT aggression. Agression, in terms of animal science, is the UNPROVOKED attack on another animal- whether or not in a territorial area.

    If I were to approach a car with a dog in it, and stuck my hand through the open window, and subsequently got bit, I would have NO RIGHT to claim the dog as Agressive. Now, if I am walking down the street, and that same dog LEAVES ITS YARD and bites my pant leg-- the dog is aggressive-- it left it's territory to make the attack. Carry that out a bit further-- that little anbklebiter is at the dog park, and a person brings in their dog, which is attacked by the ankle biter-- neutral territory for both, I would go as far as calling the ankle biter agressive AND dangerous.

    There is also the differentiation between agression and dominance-- but that is another whole chapter in the animal behaviour class!

    Terry