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Our Close-Up with the Goats

December 8th, 2017 · No Comments · France

We have watched the mixed herds of sheep and goats in our little town over the past year and a half. Usually from our balcony while they are cropping the grass or leaves in the open land behind the house.

Never was I close enough to them to at least consider how I might evade them if they came running in my direction.

That changed this week.

Our two visitors from the U.S. joined me on the walk of a neighbor’s hyperactive dog. For which I was grateful.

The two-year-old pooch (which barely warrants the expression “medium size”) is a fierce puller, on the leash. If the person at the other end of the leash were wearing roller skates, Rosie probably could drag him or her at least a mile or two before tiring.

We had been out about an hour when we saw the herd of goats and sheep, bells clanking, coming down a hill to our right. Maybe 50 or 60 individuals.

Some were already down the hill and others were nearly running to catch up, encouraged to pick up the pace by one of the three sheepdogs keeping track of the herd.

Some of the animals ran over the edge of a ditch and on down to the grass at the bottom. Others milled around on the road, waiting for someone to make a decision. The laggards were in an overgrown area of small trees and weeds.

The goats, especially, seemed interested in us, and kept moving in our direction. Or maybe it was the dog, a mix of hound and terrier, that interested them.

I considered the concept of the goats/sheep walking right through us. Would they knock us over? Bite? Would the goats try to impale us with their horns? (It was hard to envision the sheep as threats, unless they rushed at us.)

They never came at us with any urgency, but one little brown goat, more curious than the rest, came closer — till it was nearly nose to nose with Rosie, the dog.

Rosie seemed unsure how to react. She didn’t run but neither did she strike an aggressive pose.

The goat came closer. Rosie just looked.

It was about then that one of the shepherds said one sharp word, and a sheepdog came dashing into the herd, scattering and aiming the animals up the hill.

(Actually, the shepherds, four of them about 30 yards up the hill, seemed to be vaguely amused that three foreigners were more or less trapped by their herd. Were we supposed to push our way through?)

And on we went, finally, once the sheepdogs had moved them away from us.

I was thinking about how little we city folk know about animals, even those who are domesticated.

Do goats ever bite or attempt to gore people who are not attacking them? Do sheepdogs ever try to run off people who are in the midst of a herd? What sort of force could, say, 30 goats and sheep generate, pushing in one direction? (Each of the adult animals had to weigh something like 75 pounds.)

And then it was over. A couple of us had video and still photos of the interaction, which brought us closer to nature than is usual for us.



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