Monday, February 7, 2011


Every time I hear someone tell me how stupid sheep are I think of my boy, Sal. Sal's my British Longwool crossbred wether: half Border Leicester and half Romney. He's huge, easily 200+ pounds, and to some people that makes him a little menacing. I remember when my friend James came to see my new farm and he saw Sal up on the hill standing under the apple trees he just stared, asked "when I got a pony with a sweater?"

Truth is, Sal's the calmest and most social sheep at Cold Antler. He comes when called, nuzzles you, and will lay next to you in the pasture if you promise to scratch his ear. I have watched toddlers stand right next to him and tug at his wool. I have set a dulcimer on his back and played it at length. He's just an easy going guy. A Golden Retriever in sheep's clothing. When Gibson charges up at the fence every single sheep but he race up the hill in a dust cloud. Sal stands calm as an iron Buddha. He chews his cud, looks at me, looks at the dog, and says in his own sheepy way, "What?"

Someday Gibson will snap his nose to teach him to respect the Law of Dog, but until then he is unmoved by 55 pounds of talk.
I like that about Sal.

He and Maude change people's minds about sheep. Most people think they are all without personality or thought, but spend one afternoon at this farm and interact with angry, sullen, Maude and joyous Sal and you'll see emotions and complex thoughts like our own behind those eyes. I'm not saying sheep are people, but they are individuals. They react with the world in their own way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our only experience with sheep til recently had been the bummers and weaned lambs we raised for the 4-H auction. I never paid much attention because these young sheep were too busy being idiots. However, last year my daugher was presented with a 5 year old Suffolk, Staci and her market ewe, Two was donated back to her. Then, we started fostering a fiber wether found tied to a power pole (check my blog for details). All three of these adult sheep have incredible, yet totally unique personalities. Staci is the wise lady who loves to be scratched and talked to, Two is the young, silly girl who's still into lots of play time, and BlackJack, the foster boy, is learning it's okay to trust humans again. I love them! I love the smell and feel of them. Staci just gave birth to beautiful twin girls. I actually have a FLOCK now!

February 7, 2011 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I really enjoy learning about how animals really are instead of just opinions. This was a good one Jenna.

February 7, 2011 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

I wonder if Sal's disposition is due to his mixed parentage, much the same way that mixed breed dogs often have better temperaments than do purebreds.

February 7, 2011 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I have no experience with sheep, but I completely agree, since I've had similar experiences with people's perception of goats. To the uninitiated, they are all ill-behaved, obnoxious tin can eaters. I have six goats here, all completely different - some timid, some bossy, some laid back, some pushy, all of them charming in their own way. They all have feelings. Anyone who doesn't think so hasn't spent time around them. I admit to being surprised myself when I learned this about them!

February 7, 2011 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

Great writing...I know, because by the time I finished reading I had a distinct impression...of a sheep's personality. That's gotta take talent.

February 7, 2011 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Smart is relative. Sheep are pretty good at being sheep. Things they do that seem "dumb" are just insticts to keep themselves alive. People who think sheep are dumb just don't understand them. All of my sheep have very distinct personalities. :-)

February 7, 2011 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger daisy g said...

It's always easier to judge someone (including sheep) than to try to understand them. What a blessing those two are to you and vice versa.

February 7, 2011 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger oukay said...

What's up with the interior of Sal's ear in the picture?

February 7, 2011 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Some of it is black spots, and some of it is ear wax. They get cleaned out from time to time, but I think the sun and the levels I used in photoshop made it look redder than it is.

February 7, 2011 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Odd Ducks Farm said...

Beautifully put, Jenna. I tend to think that anyone who spends significant time around animals and loves them will begin to notice that there is more going on behind those placid eyes than the stimulus/response expected of "dumb" animals. We routinely care for 180+ alpacas and I swear I can tell a good number of them apart from their personalities and it can't all be anthropromorphism. Animals are not dumb, straightforward yes but not dumb. :o)

February 7, 2011 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sal looks like a gentle old soul. I can just see him standing there, ignoring the herding :-)

February 7, 2011 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I got my three Babydoll Southdowns in October, an older ewe and two six month old wethers. The ewe is the boss, and stamps her little feet if one of the boys gets out of line. One of the wethers loves "toys" and I can't leave a rake or broom within his reach, but is more shy than his buddy. They all know when I'm coming out to feed them, and when I'm coming out to do something annoying like clean their shed. There are few things they enjoy more than watching their neighbors, the young goats, put on a show for them.

February 7, 2011 at 9:32 PM  

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