Sheep versus Goats
In response to my last blog, my friends who raise sheep commented that the sheep I showed looked more like American goats than sheep, although the tails were certainly sheep like. I thought you might like to see the differences between sheep and goats here, so I took some pictures and asked Prosper about the important characteristics.
As my friends said, the dead give-away is the tail of the animal. The goats have tails that stick up, and sheep have tails that are longer and hang down. Here are a couple of examples.
The second difference is the ears. Here sheep have ears that hang down, like their tails, and the goats have ears that stick out to the sides, like these:
|Goat Ears Stick Out|
The other big difference is that all the goats have horns, but only the male sheep have horns. Here are a female (no horns) and a male (with horns) sheep, and a female goat with horns.
|Female and Male Sheep|
As you can see above, the goats have thin, slick coats, and most of the sheep short coats, too.This should be no surprise, given the temperature here. Sheep's coats tend to be a little thicker than the goats but not by much. Prosper has this one sheep with longer hair, but this is about as much wool as you are going to see on a sheep here.
|Long Haired Sheep|
Another question was about wild animals attacking livestock that are allowed to roam free. In spite of what you see in movies and on television, in West Africa most of the dangerous carnivores have been hunted to extinction, except for a few you might find in the game preserves. I have not heard of any livestock being attacked by wild animals, except for snakes. Prosper did lose a sheep recently to a snake bite.
Because my village is on a major highway, that is to say a two lane paved road, traffic is the greatest danger to roaming animals. Trucks carrying goods between the capital and other cities race by, blasting their horns, day and night. There are also lots of buses, 4X4s, and vans carrying passengers rushing past. If there is a choice between hitting an animal, driving off the road into a ditch or crashing into an oncoming bus or truck, you can bet the animal will lose.
The other major hazard for a farmer trying to raise animals is thieves. Prosper lost a donkey several weeks ago, and we can only assume that it was stolen. On the day Prosper took me to see his plot of land here he hopes to eventually keep his animals, we encountered a man on the road carrying on to a group of people including the boy who lives with Prosper and Martine and helps with the animals. This guy was telling them about a boy who had tried to steal a sheep, which was, in fact, one of Prosper’s. The man was able to stop the boy and he was saying he was going to tell the kid’s parents, because he knew who he was. I could not understand all he was saying, but I am rather sure it was something like, “What is this world coming to, when you can’t trust your neighbors not to steal your animals!”
Trying to grow moringa
I have written before about the value of the moringa trees. While I was in Ouaga this summer, Martine and the children started four trees for me. We (I should really say they) transplanted them into my courtyard, but we knew it was about time to let the animals roam free, so we took some of the mud bricks from my fallen wall and built protection for them. Here you can see the leafy tops poking up through their cages.
Unfortunately, that was not enough! The goats and donkeys love moringa, and, with the other three sides of the wall around by courtyard missing, the goats climbed the bricks and ate the tops off the trees. Here was the first attempt to protect them, with branches with long spines, intended to discourage the animals.
That helped, and they started to sprout new leaves. Unfortunately, the donkeys were not deterred, pushing the spiny branches out of the way to get at the leaves. This weekend Prosper and some of the boys replaced the secco (woven grass mats) that formed the roof of my porch, and put the old secco up on posts to act as kind of fence. I am expecting the animals to eat their way through to get at the trees, but they assure me the animals do not like that kind of grass. We shall see....