Posted by: morrisoncorner | July 17, 2009

Rabbits, Angora, Fiber…. Pets?

Oooo No! Toasty-the-mini-rabbit something or other (there’s a name for this breed, I just don’t know what it is) has just learned she’s an unproductive pet! Oh.. the horror!

What she lacks in productivity she more than makes up for in adventure and charm. I had no idea miniature rabbits can climb stairs, cat towers, and scale kiddie barricades like Marines at boot camp. In fact, the only way to keep Toasty in one place is to lock her in a cage. And even then I’m not entirely sure she isn’t going to figure out how to unlock the cage. The house bunny is wildly entertaining.. although I’m not sure how the husband is going to feel about a rabbit rampaging through the house.

The white angora lacks the house bunny’s personality and charm, but more than makes up for it in fiber production. And while the lamb is producing perfectly luscious fiber, getting the fiber off the lamb is going to be much more of a rodeo than getting the fiber off the bunny. Which may explain why one farm is transitioning from sheep to rabbits. We’ll see. I’m still very fond of my sheep!



  1. I was just wondering…
    Yesterday, I went apple picking with some friends, my godchildren and my small Havanese dog, Indy. The farm also had a petting zoo, with a couple of pens of sheep. I knew that the Havanese were originally bred in Havana, Cuba to help the sheep farmers as they are natural herders. But I couldn’t believe when Indy, who had never even seen sheep before, immediately went into action. She immediately and quietly herded the sheep into one corner of the pen and sat there proudly. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t think she could either.

    Anyway, I am looking for a sheep farm that I can visit that would actually let her practice her herding instinct for which she was bred… just for an hour.

    Indy is small, 9-lb dog, white Havanese dog. She never barks and they are known for their extreme gentle, loving, and friendly nature. Everyone falls in love with her as soon as they see her. She is hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed. So she would be no bother. Again, without one bark, she immediately rounded the sheep up.
    What a surprise.

    Is this something you might consider letting her do?

    Thank you for your response.

    Boston, MA

  2. It’s wonderful when dogs exhibit the characteristics they were bred for, even though most working dogs are now primarily family pets. That said, in this situation you were quite lucky. The sheep your dog decided to herd were part of a petting zoo, so docile and tame to begin with. She didn’t hurt the sheep, and, from your point of view, the sheep didn’t try to hurt her.

    Mine would. Mine would, if they didn’t ignore her entirely, view her as a threat and make a credible attempt and reducing her to mush. The Icelandic is a largely feral breed and my understanding is that the people who do sheep dog trials won’t use their dogs on Icelandics because in order for the herding thing to work the dogs can’t be afraid of the sheep. The sheep have to move away from the dog, which reinforces the dog’s confidence and makes herding with dogs possible. Icelandics, in New England, have been culled consistently to make them, if anything, more aggressive. If one of my ewes can’t protect her lambs from a fox, she would be culled.

    Your dog probably looks suspiciously fox sized.

    The Icelandic confronts an attack by bunching up, lambs behind, as a solid block, like Musk Oxen. This makes one (very large) “animal” armed rather formidably with horns, a boney head plate, and hooves. But more importantly, as a solid, immovable, block, it is almost impossible for a coyote or fox to single out an animal to bring down. In all my years of keeping sheep not once have they broken ranks before I’ve been able to get out there to deal with the predator.

    When confronting a domestic dog my ewes will lower their heads and butt. Unfortunately, a sheep lowering to butt looks very much, to a puppy, like a play bow. So here you have this seriously irritated sheep pawing the ground and getting ready to make mush out of puppy brains, and this puppy play bowing (sheep for “I’m coming after you”) and wagging like mad.

    Guess which species learned to interpret the other’s language?

    Not, I can assure you, my brainless golden retrievers. No, the sheep have learned that a play bowing dog is stupid but harmless. They will even allow puppies to bounce with sheep and ignore larger dogs as unimportant.

    Iceland does have an Icelandic Sheep Dog, a small dog with spitz characteristics which comes in either a fluffy or smooth coat. The dog was bred to be quite small and fit into the smaller physical space of an Icelandic home. They are friendly, active, fun, dogs. And they do try and herd sheep. But the breeder I know says the sheep simply laugh at them. The Icelandic is a “pull” breed, you “pull” them in by rattling grain buckets. Not a “push” breed. It is utterly pointless to run after my sheep if they break through the fence unless you’ve got an army. And even then, you must walk and slowly move them, or they’ll just run through you.

    You can try other farms with more docile breeds but you are risking the sheep and you are risking your dog. Your dog isn’t trained to recognize things like electric fences and other hazards, she’s just happily making the sheep go somewhere. And the sheep aren’t necessarily going to be so cooperative next time. Next time one may well lash out with a rear hoof and catch her a good clip. Or lower a head and take her out. I think it was wonderful she was able to do what she did… I also think you were both very lucky nobody got hurt.

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