Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Learning reality the ram way

Learning reality the ram way

We generally refer to male sheep as bucks in our neck of the woods, but ram is probably a better term since everyone here thinks bucks are football players at Ohio State. Turn your back on a ram and he will plant his head into the small of your back and send you to the nearest chiropractor for the rest of your life. And don’t think you can teach him a lesson by returning the favor with anything short of lethal force. Rams love getting hit in the head. I think it gives them orgasms. The only way you can get any respect is to rap them sharply on the nose with a short, stout stick that you should carry in your pocket when you are in the barn.

When I hear an animal lover who has never had to take daily care of animals criticize the way we husbandmen treat our livestock, I wish that they had to learn reality the ram way. I look with considerable reservations at all those sweet biblical pictures of “good shepherds” who leave the ninety nine behind to go search for the one that is lost. Why are there no pictures of good shepherds getting nailed in the butt by a ram, a scene a whole lot more common? Sheep are never lost. Shepherds just don’t always know where they are.

For some reason, in agrarian cultures, nothing is as funny as seeing a buck send a farm boy flying into a pile of manure. It has happened to all of us who raise sheep. I don’t care how carefully you keep an eye out, the moment you forget and turn your back, BAM. Most of the time no harm is done which I suppose is why it seems so comical (especially if it happens to Dad after he has scolded you for something your sister did). But ram attacks are not funny. Rams can kill humans. So if you are a shepherd new to the business, I am, right now, going to save your life.

Do not try to run away from an attacking ram. He can outrun you. If you watch two bucks about to deliver orgasms to each other, they will face off and take a few steps backwards. Then they charge, colliding head on with enough collective force to make an anvil bleed. Then they quiver with pleasure and do it again.

So when you see your buck start to back away from you, walk towards him. I mean go right at him. Almost always this is confusing to a buck and he will keep backing away for awhile and might lose interest in killing you. This can give you time to get closer to a fence or a tractor. If you can get to an immovable object like a tree, all you have to do is keep it between you and the ram. Then he can’t do his classic charge and soon tires of the game.

Otherwise, like out in the middle of a field, he will eventually quit backing up at your advance and attack. Stand your ground. This takes a great deal of nerve the first time. But at the last second before he butts you, he will lift himself on his hind legs to give his forward motion extra pile-driver strength. Up on his hind legs, he can only lunge straight ahead. He can’t turn. So when he lunges, all you have to do is step sideways, quickly of course, and his momentum carries him past you. This maneuver is quite effective and it is almost comical to see how puzzled the ram will be when all he collides with is thin air. If you are young and strong, this is the moment when you grab him, twist his head around backwards, set him on his ass like you were going to shear him, and pummel the living hell out of him. Some shepherds say this will only make him meaner but in my experience, he will act like a gentleman for about a month. Or will absorb enough fear of the Lord so that when you see him backing up the next time, a warning yell will make him stop short and decide it is more fun to go eat hay.

If you are not young and strong, you should only be out with the flock in the pasture if you are riding a tractor or other vehicle. I have often wondered what would happen if a ram decided to dispute his territory with a four wheeler. I’m afraid that the four-wheeler would come off second best.

My brother-in-law’s ram, which was also my ram last year, absolutely loves to bash his head against anything that moves. When he no longer had a partner ram to amuse him, he challenged Brad’s two steers. The otherwise placid bovines took turns bashing him until he finally realized that there was no future in ramming hard-headed animals three times his size.

So, and this is all the evidence you need to prove the insanity of the male hormonal system, he went after Brad’s draft horse instead. You have to understand that the horse thinks he is master of the flock. He can round up Brad’s sheep and bring them to the barn as skillfully as any border collie. So of course ram and horse are idiot male rivals. In the beginning, the ram got in maybe two or three good charges before the horse learned to wheel around and blast his attacker into cuckoo land with his hind hooves. I know you will not believe me, but the ram seems to love getting his head nearly kicked off by flying hooves. He just keeps coming back for more. The horse has learned a new strategy. Wheeling all the way around to send the stupid ram head over heels got to be a lot more trouble than it was worth, so now when the ram charges, the horse elegantly extends one of his front legs and plants his hoof into the hapless ram’s lowered head, like a football buck stiff-arming a tackler. That stops the ram dead in his tracks.

This suggests an interesting philosophical question. If I try to cave a ram’s head in with a ball bat, the well-meaning, civilized observer will accuse me of cruelty to animals. What if a horse does it? And the ram comes back for more?


Image Credit: В© Eric IsselГ©e |

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