The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships

Usually that’s my nickname for the ever-glamorous Duchess, but this week the title goes to her granddaughter Angel. Drama is apparently a highly heritable trait. Angel, like her (biological) mother Mira and her grandmother Duchess, gets very quarrelsome when she’s in heat. Unlike her relatives, she doesn’t restrict her hormone-fueled aggression to her romantic rivals, but shares it with everyone in her vicinity.

Two days ago, when the first signs of heat appeared, she decided to fight Danny, Clover and Neo all at once. Three wethers vs one ewe might have ended badly for any other ewe, but not the Mighty Angel. (Though I did keep an eye on them for a while, just to be sure.)

Angel was helped in her goal of beating up the boys by the boys themselves, who hit each other at least as often as Angel did. This led to some very funny four-way standoffs.

“Alright, who’s going to hit who first?”

And some unfortunate collisions when two pairs tried to charge through the same space at the same time, leading to poor Danny getting accidentally punched from both sides at once. Or at least I think it was accidental.

“Wow, this is easier than I thought. They’re beating each other up for me!”

Of course it’s also possible that Neo and Clover both decided to punch Dandelion as he went by. Danny must have been particularly annoying that morning, because most of Angel’s ire seemed focused on him. And gentle Neo did take the chance to butt his little brother while Clover was taking a breather by the gate.


“I’m the toughest!”

“Ow! No fair, Neo!”

I’m not sure why Flynn wasn’t joining in the scuffle, since he’s usually Angel’s most devoted admirer, but he stayed out of the way this time. Neo and Clover both eventually decided to choose the better part of valor and ran off, and Angel kept chasing Danny around for about two hours before she decided she’d made her point and lost interest.

Yesterday, when she was properly in heat, she decided for some reason known only to herself that Liam was going to be her boyfriend, and spent a great deal of time following him around and making a pest of herself. I don’t have pictures of that because I was at work for most of it, but I’m told Liam was very alarmed and annoyed by the whole thing.

Duke must have decided that Liam was violating their unofficial agreement Liam has Lana and Duke has all the other girls, because in the evening when I went out to put everyone up for the night he was trying to run Liam off and stop him from coming in the barn. I could tell that between Duke and Angel Liam was clinging to the very last shreds of his patience, so I decided the two former rams had better sleep in separate stalls, both so Liam could get some peace and so Duke wouldn’t get himself killed.

“I could have taken him!”

The thing Duke doesn’t seem to understand about Liam is that his motivation doesn’t come from being particularly timid or aggressive. His most defining trait is that he is exceedingly lazy. Therefore he decides between fight and flight, not based on how scary his opponent is or any desire to prove how tough he is, but based on which option seems like less work at the moment.

What this means is that he would really rather not fight, because fighting takes a lot of energy, but he will fight if someone is persistent enough that avoiding them becomes more work than fighting them. And when he decides to fight he generally wins because he’s a) very big, b) very strong, and c) very focused on finishing the fight as quickly as possible so he can go back to being lazy. He has been known to knock boards off the side of the barn when he’s gotten in fights during the night. It is therefore my considered opinion that it would not have ended well for Duke if he’d managed to push Liam into fighting him.

Fortunately there is no evidence that anyone tried to fight through the stall wall last night, and Angel is back to her usual self this morning so the war has been averted. For now, at least. Liam is enjoying not being harassed and last I checked was settled down to a nice peaceful breakfast.

Granted “peace” is a relative term when one’s flock is full of Soay drama queens, and Liam’s breakfast was mostly peaceful because he is a) very big, b) very strong, and c) very focused on his food so he didn’t notice the dozen other sheep pushing and shoving at the feeder around him like turbulent water flowing around a large, steady boulder.

“Ah yes, peace and quiet at last.”

I’m not sure if everyone was mobbing the extra feeder because they always think the extra hay is the best, or because Duke and Angel were both up at the main feeder and they wanted to give them a wide berth. Either way, the breakfast rush is a daily routine that basically counts as peaceful, I suppose.

I’ve told the girls they’re free to stop cycling any time they like since the breeding season ended months ago, but so far they haven’t listened to me. I think the spring weather has made them worse; the boys over in the other field have also been fighting more than usual this week. I’d rather they didn’t fight so much, but I’m glad they’re feeling energetic and (mostly) happy in this little break we’re having between the late winter ice we’ve just gone through and the spring rains that will soon turn everything into soupy mud.

6 thoughts on “The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships

  1. Oh my, what a rumble! Who knew having sheep was such continuous excitement? They are lucky to have you as their Shepherd Person.

  2. Liam…he is beautiful even if ‘lazy’. May have kept him alive……… Interesting that heat cycle doesn’t seem to have a ‘season’!!

    • According to the textbook they’re *supposed* to only cycle in the fall, when the amount of daylight is decreasing. It was a big deal when I was in college, people trying with limited success to breed sheep that cycle year-round in order to ensure a constant supply of lamb. Unfortunately my sheep can’t read the textbook, so they don’t know that and cycle sometimes up to 9 months out of the year. Ironically Soays are one of the least “improved” breeds of domestic sheep in existence, so if the lack of seasonality is true of Soays in general and not just a quirk of my flock in particular it’s actually pretty funny.

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