How To Spot A Pregnant Sheep
SHEEP! THERE ARE SHEEP EVERYWHERE. There are more sheep than people on this island.
And the sheep know it.
As we drive along the Irish country roads we have to be alert because around any curve of the road we might be met by a sheep, ten Sheep, or fifty Sheep. They might be crossing the road or, more likely, walking down the road stopping to graze on roadside grasses. As they are doing this they will take an occasional in our direction – not with any animosity, but to send us a message.
“We were here first, so chill.”
I have seen what can happen if some impatient human tries to hurry them along or ignores their Right-of-Way. If a Sheep gets upset with a person on foot walking through their turf or asphalt I’ve seen what a Ram can do. I have seen Sheep dent cars that had the audacity to hit the horn and drive through the flock. Some people never learn.
Most of the time I see Sheep they are on their own without a human anywhere to be seen. Shepherds have a sweet gig. When do they actually have to do something? Where we are staying now, deep in the countryside of County Donegal, there are Sheep everywhere. Every hillside has a moving pattern of white dots clinging onto the impossible sharp angles that only a Sheep
with those marvelous hoofs could navigate. If I was up there with them it wouldn’t be for long. One false move, and I am full of those, and I would slip, fall, and end up in the Atlantic Ocean or in Scotland.
As we’ve moved about the country and seen billions of Sheep there is one thing that we have noticed that requires some explanation. Almost every Sheep has been spray painted. Yes, spray painted. Somewhere on the animal there is a spray painted spot the size of a dinner plate. Some sheep have more than one spot. I’ve seen some with three spots.
There is a reason for all of this Ovine Artwork.
If this was Texas instead of Glencolmcille they would be trying to brand these Sheep and that really doesn’t work very well. In Ireland the spray paint serves the same purpose. Donny has the Red Sheep, Sean owns the Green ones, and Tommy’s widow has the Blue.
But there is more to it.
The farmers also add another color to their Ewes once the Rams have impregnated them. Then they are moved to a separate bunch of Sheep to be cared for until the blessed wooly event happens.
A third color can be added to the Sheep to tell the farmer which animal has been vaccinated, been ill, or some other thing that sets them apart from the flock. I did note that the Sheep with a green spot on the leg indicates that it would be especially good with mint jelly.
I spent a good ten minutes researching this most fascinating topic, twice my usual amount of time. I took that extra time because I knew there would be questions and I knew less than nothing. My ignorance was complete.
Now, the next time you find yourself in Ireland and surrounded by a flock of Sheep you can amaze and astound the others in your tour bus by giving them a short lecture on why those Sheep in the road have Purple butts.