Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Ram Who Would Be King

Ever since we've had our sheep flock, our senior ram Nicholai has been the benevolent King of the Flock.
He briefly trounces any newcomers to let them know who's boss, and then afterwards he diligently works as a peacekeeper to break up any other fighting that happens in the ram flock. So up until now, all the rams have been pretty good buddies.

But this year, we acquired a new ram, Midas. I had been planning for the past year to buy him, because he is the father of all the best fleece sheep in my flock, and all of his offspring that I own have excellent heat and parasite resistance. I wanted to bring in more of those qualities into my flock.

Luckily for me, his owner, Bonny at Donnybrook Farm had kept enough of his daughters in her flock that she was willing to trade Midas for one of my best ram lambs from this spring. So, Midas came to live here.

He's a large, 6-year old ram with absolutely splendid fleece quality. His tog (outer wool) is extremely soft for a senior ram, and his thel (inner wool) is so fine and dense, it feels like he's coated with a springy layer of foam rubber. No wonder all his lambs get such gorgeous fleeces!

Icelandic sheep are seasonal breeders, who will only breed in the late fall and winter. During breeding season, rams produce lots of hormones that give them a distinctive, masculine smell that helps attract ewes.

As soon as we loaded Midas in the car to bring him home, I could tell by his "ram-y" smell that he was already hormonally charged for rutting season, even though it was still 2 months early. He spent his time in his quarantine pen butting the fence and the bushes in his pen.

Then, when it was time to release him from quarantine and put him in with the other rams, he decided it was time to prove that he was the new king of the flock.

We expected Midas and Nicholai to tussle a bit when they first met, but we expected Nicholai to put an end to the fight quickly so they could all be friends afterward. Unfortunately for Nicholai, Midas is a little bigger, a year older, and way more hyped up on testosterone at the time, so even though Nicholai went into the encounter with confidence, by the time the dust cleared he was limping and Midas was the new king.

Poor Nicholai is a bit dejected at being dethroned, but he's taking it like a gentleman. His limp has healed itself, and we reassure him frequently that he's still king of our hearts!

Here's a short video clip of part of the battle. Hear that CRACK! as their heads come together?

That force of impact is why---no matter how gentle you think your rams are---you must always be careful when walking among them, especially during breeding season when they're full of hormones and not thinking rationally.

A 200-lb. animal striking a human with that kind of force could easily put you in the hospital or even kill you. So be cautious!


Anonymous said...

Poor Nicholas. It must be hard to be bested. Maybe he needs a new campaign manager, someone to get out the grassroots vote ... or work on voter supression if he wants to take the low road. If election signs start sprouting up in the meadows, you know you have a fight on your hands. :P

Nancy Chase said...

:-) Funny!!

What the rams don't realize is that no matter who is king of the flock, I am still QUEEN of the flock. No matter how bossy any of them are in the ram pen, I'm the one behind the scenes who decides how many girlfriends each one of them gets.

In terms of "voting" by who gets the most girlfriends, it's the mild-mannered ram Tut who is king of the flock this fall. He has the most ewes that will be assigned to him.

But if the other boys knew that, they'd probably beat Tut up!

Jus Shar Designs said...

Midas is a handsome young fella, but that Nicholai is gorgeous. His face...his coat. I wish I knew how to spin because a cardigan with Nicholai wool would be heavenly!

Beth Newbern-Hallam