Guardian Animals

Ever since Man first domesticated the goat, he has used other animals to help him manage them. Guardian dogs were first used in the high Himalayan and they were called Mastiffs. As Man migrated west and east over the Bering Land Bridge, he brought with him his livestock, including dogs. The various breeds of guardian dogs, no matter what their country of origin is now, have all evolved from the Mastiff brought there by early Man and bred there by the groups of Man who chose to stay. For example, the Anatolian is a white version of the black Mastiff and is from Turkey, bred by the group of Man who did not continue on westward into France and Spain. There, the evolved form of the original Mastiff is called the Great Pyrenees.

Similarly, the breed of dog taken east over the land bridge evolved into the black Newfoundland. The color of dog, black or white seems to have been determined by the color of the surrounding landscape at night. For example, white dogs were selected for when the nighttime landscape was primarily black. White dogs are easy to see and easy to differentiate from the potential predators…. bears, wolves and the like. Where the nighttime landscape is a light color due to consistent snow cover, a black dog would be easier to see at night.

Herd dogs came into use much later. All herd dog breeds are descended from the wild wolves. An interesting exercise is to observe the muzzle shape of puppies. When first born, the muzzle resembles that of the dogs’ earliest ancestor… ie: herd dogs have the long pointy muzzle of the wolf while guard dogs have the blocky muzzle of the Mastiff. But herd dogs are a an invaluable tool when working with large groups of livestock. Breeds most suited for working goats are the Australian Kelpie and the Border Collie because they do not normally have excessive “grip”, meaning they do not bite and bark as much as say an Australian Heeler. Goats are herded very easily and do not need an aggressive herd dog to make them move. A slow and gentle pace is the best way to move goats. That way, they do not become agitated, liable to jump the highest fence and escape.

Donkeys, llamas, ponies and even lone cows also make good guardian animals. Donkeys are particularly suited for the job as they are naturally inquisitive and tend to be very territorial as are older, lone ponies. Llamas, again working alone, also make good guard animals as they are very tall, taller than the coyote expects. As the coyote begins his predatory approach, he will normally walk upright up to the point where he begins his crouched approach. What he, the coyote, doesn’t realize is that the llama, being very tall, can spot him while he is still upright and, being naturally inquisitive also, will approach the stalking coyote, frightening him off his stalk. Some llamas can also be very aggressive, chasing after marauding coyotes and stray dogs. A lone cow that has been raised with goats since birth and that is isolated from other bovines can also make a good guard animal, especially after she calves. Cows hate dogs and coyotes and will chase them away. If she is hanging with the goat herd, this protection is automatically transferred to them.

Again, emphasis must be placed on the solidarity of the guard animal. Two llamas, or two ponies will hang in the corner by themselves and completely ignore the goats. The trick is to make the guard animal think it’s a goat. Another precaution that must be taken is to carefully observe the guard animal during joining and kidding. Some guardians object to the mating process and will drive away the lusty buck. Others will become overly inquisitive when the new kids start arriving. Be careful and watch what’s happening out there. Sometimes, guard animals must be removed from the pasture for a while.

Copyright 1994 Capricorn Press. Not to be reproduced without express written consent of Capricorn Press. Contact for more information.

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