It looks like the pictures of the boys I took at Christmas were the last pictures I’ll get of that particular group, at least for a while. A few days after New Year’s about six of the boys all ganged up on Duke and made a fair attempt at killing him. I knew Duke was getting on in years and likely wouldn’t be “boss” forever, but I didn’t expect a reenactment of Julius Caesar. Normally I try to let them work these things out themselves, but six on one isn’t a fair fight even for a young sheep, and I wasn’t willing to risk a repeat of Lady’s recent injury. It looked like Barney and the two crossbreds were the main instigators, with the Dukelings just bouncing around thinking the whole thing was a Splendid Game, but a lack of malice doesn’t mean they couldn’t have hurt Duke without necessarily meaning to.
Dad and I had to chase the sillies around the field for over an hour before we managed to get Duke off into the small field, with Jeb to keep him company since Jeb wasn’t involved in the murder plot and doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body as far as I’ve seen. Barney is usually Duke’s designated buddy, but since he was one of the most determined of the attackers that wouldn’t have worked very well this time.
“Hi, ShepherdPerson! Are you here to give us treats?”
These are nine very naughty sheep who do not deserve any treats and ought to be ashamed of themselves. Even Barney, standing off to the side trying to look innocent. Et tu, Barney? I suppose after all these years living with Duke he finally snapped.
I left Duke and Jeb off on their own for a day or two before putting them back, hoping that the feud would blow over, but it didn’t. Rescue attempt #2 put Jeb and Duke back in protective custody.
“How come we’re in jail when we didn’t do anything wrong?”
Since the small field is not enough for even two sheep long-term and I really didn’t want to start trying to maintain three separate flocks, the only alternative was to put Duke with the girls. Since Duke has been pushing that idea for years, I knew he wouldn’t complain. Since he can’t make lambs anymore, the only thing I was worried about was whether Liam might take exception to another former breeding ram hanging out on “his” turf. I decided to let both groups out in the yard, hoping it would be enough of a distraction to prevent any serious fighting.
In hindsight I should have recorded Duke running across the field towards the girls, played it in slow motion, and dubbed some dramatic, triumphant music over it. Oh well. It’s easy enough to imagine.
“Wait for us!”
Everything went surprisingly smoothly, no real fighting at all, and they all moseyed off towards the top of the yard together. I think it took about five minutes for Duke and Liam to even notice each other. It was definitely obvious when Duke realized one of his new pasture mates was Not Like The Others. The coup over in the boys’ field doesn’t seem to have dented Duke’s ego much and he immediately started posturing and gearing up to fight.
“What’s this? A Bitter Rival?”
This I should have recorded and dubbed over with music from a Western showdown. Everyone subtly ducked out of the direct line between the two former rams, apparently recognizing the signs of an imminent duel.
“This yard isn’t big enough for the both of us, FluffyWhiteRival!”
Liam was a bit befuddled by Duke’s unexpected challenge.
“Is he serious, ShepherdPerson?”
“You and me, foreheads at ten paces, right now!”
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
“Hey, where are you going?”
Liam wandered off without either fighting or running and now it was Duke’s turn to be befuddled. He didn’t know that was an option. He wandered off with the girls and started grazing again, so I suppose he was counting it as a win. Or perhaps he was embarrassed. It’s hard to suitably impress his new girlfriends when no one will fight him. I’ve never noticed that the girls find watching rams fight all that interesting, let alone impressive, but that doesn’t stop the boys from trying.
“You stay away from my girls, Jeb!”
Liam did briefly chase Jeb in circles a few times, just to make sure he didn’t get any ideas. Poor Jeb had no interest at all in impressing girls and didn’t deserve such harassment. I have no idea why Liam only sees other Shetlands as rivals, but apparently it still holds true. Either my trick to distract them with yard grass worked or Liam realized Jeb wasn’t interested, because once Jeb stopped going in circles and set off in a straight line Liam quickly gave up on chasing him.
“Come back here and– oh never mind, just stay away from my girls.”
He did seem keen to keep Lana and Nina away from the rest of the flock for a while, though.
“Crazy Soays, always wanting to fight. Let’s stay over here on our own.”
Duke shadowed the rest of the flock off in the other direction, apparently satisfied to let Liam have Lana and Nina as long as the rest of the girls were “his.”
“Crazy Shetlands, don’t even know how to fight. Let’s go this way and leave them alone.”
Both groups were contentedly grazing together tonight when I put them up, but I shuffled Duke and Jeb into the “private” stall for the night anyway, just in case being in close quarters made the two former rams more willing to duel.
Bran and Johnny seem to be the main contenders for new “boss” in the boys’ field. Some of the Dukelings are sporadically jumping into the fight too, but no one is taking them seriously. They’re not even taking each other seriously. I think they’re still convinced it’s all a Splendid Game and everything will soon go back to normal. I don’t know if this new arrangement will be permanent, but as long as Duke keeps behaving I don’t see why he can’t stay where he is. It’s a bit sad that he’s been displaced from top spot in the boys’ flock after so many years, but if it means he finally gets to stay with the girls I imagine it’s a trade he would have been happy to make.