Sunday, December 5, 2010

On the Uniqueness of Each and Every Goat

Between buying, breeding, and selling, I've owned about a dozen goats in my three years of saanen ownership. We've been lucky—six out of our seven Bent Barrow kids have been doelings, and have fetched a good price from loving buyers. We've been unlucky, too—one doe, for whom I paid a high sum and drove a long way, turned out to be a straight-legged, narrow-hipped, skittish girl. We found her a quieter home, with full disclosure of her shortcomings.

We have three goats at Bent Barrow Farm now, and not one of them is like the other.

Missy, reluctantly fallen to the bottom of the pecking order, is our oldest doe and the dam of the other two. She was terminally ill this summer, paralyzed and doomed by a near-hopeless prognosis. She sprang back to life and is 98% perfect today. She has regained her lost weight, and has learned to compensate for her hind-end weakness by avoiding pasture scuffles. She is angelic in appearance, inquisitive in nature, and unusually stern. She glares at children, hackles raised, when they inhabit her space. I think her authority over human kids stems from some desire to be the "big goat" in town—as saanen's go, she's very petite, and will never physically dominate her herdmates. She appreciates human attention, loves nothing better than a firm back rub, and will stand endlessly for a massage along her spine.

Missy's son Jasper Jules is a three-year old wether. He was our first homebred kid, born at a whopping 12 pounds and grown to about 200. He's a graceless goat, and a bit of an oaf, but he's kind. He's more submissive than Missy, and a bit flightier. Still, he manages—he pulls a cart, he joins us on hikes, he dances on command. He is a benign creature, and never plots against us in the fashion of his mother. He likes rump scratches and car rides, and traveled particularly well in the passenger seat before his size became prohibitive.

Jasper's sister B.G. (Bent Barrow Gaia) rejoined our family this autumn after spending several years in the custody of our very good friends the Chicken People. They parted with her, and selling her back to us to continue our herd, when Missy looked to ill to go on. Missy would have no such thing, however, and revived within days of the upstart's arrival. Now, they have a peace established. B.G. bosses Missy, though not excessively, and Jasper and B.G. share resources and dominance. All three, however, yield to the awesome might of Fenway Bartholomule.

B.G. is a talkative goat. She's the first one screaming "good morning!" and the last one screaming "good night!" She's a smart goat, too . . . after one week here, she learned that it is possible to exit through a certain unlatched gate by pushing on it. I had cleaned their paddock with an unlatched gate twice weekly for three years before this discovery was made. Since the discovery, not one paddock-cleaning passes without B.G. hammering on the (latched) gate with her hooves and head. She's pushy, physically encroaching, and determined, but she is sweet. She likes rubs on her cheeks and nose. 

The children like B.G. particularly, because she is new and exciting. The children are safest with Jasper, who's too respectful and timid to physically dominate a human. The children are relieved by the survival of Missy, who appears—in catlike fashion—to have begun a second of nine lives. We love them all, and it's hard to imagine a more diverse or a more delightful trio.


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