Determining the order of dominance is very important to animals (and to humans, though people try to pretend it isn’t). With the animals dominance is mostly determined through violence, though usually it isn’t particularly dangerous. Over the last three days there have been three incidents of varying severity…
Bertie and Boris
Bertie isn’t well as mentioned in several prior posts. He’s still not getting up, and often I’ll help him stand up, leave him standing and return to find him slumped on the ground. The other goats have been hanging around him, mostly I think to steal his food, but Boris has been particularly assiduous in her attentions. “Aaah,” thought I, “she’s concerned about her brother.”
No. She isn’t. Yesterday I’d got Bertie up on his feet, given him some hay and solid food and wandered off to start feeding the others. For some reason I had to go back to the animal restaurant, and there I saw Boris administering her version of love. She rammed Bertie just above his back legs, totally wiping him out, and then stepped over his head to get to the food he’d been enjoying. He looked completely dazed by the experience. After that I put two hurdles up so the other goats couldn’t get to him. He seems much happier with the arrangement and I haven’t seen him totally sprawled out in such a manner since then. But it’s clear – Boris is the boss, of Bertie at least.
Muga and Haan
Until this week there has only been a small section of fence, maybe six feet, where Muga and Haan might meet. They may have met, but it hasn’t been obvious. Now there’s a much longer stretch and over the last couple of days Muga and Haan have been sizing each other up. Mostly there’s been some fake charges, and a little bleating and some disdainful shakes of the head. They have also managed to charge each other a couple of times, the resounding crack of their heads echoing across the fields. In the process Muga has wrecked the strand of electric wire along the bottom of the fence, and I think that might also have stopped more ramming.
Muga at least has been taking out his anger on some other posts. Haan, other than his little dance with Muga, seems much more relaxed and hasn’t caused any problems. He’s a young ram though, so who knows what he’ll be like in years to come. We’ll probably need to keep them at least two fields apart. Or double up the fencing…
I think it was a draw. No dominance agreed…
Bernard and Gaffer
Now that all the weaners have gone I felt it was time to get all the sows together in one place. It’ll make it easier to feed and manage them, and means that at least one of our pig areas will be rested for a while.
Moving them is easy, just shake the bucket of feed and lead them along. Soon they were all together, food was on the ground and all was well. For about thirty seconds and then Bernard and Gaffer kicked off. Rearing up and trying to bite each other’s ears.
I’ve not seen two sows fight quite like that before, they really were having a go at each other and making quite an horrendous racket. They’d shared a fence for several months and there must have been some harsh words exchanged, and now it was time to settle it properly. I figured they needed to work out their differences and then they’d be fine. Also, there was very little I could do to intervene, the old advice about not getting between two fighting dogs has got to go threefold for pigs. After a minute or two it calmed down to the usual fighting, with them just pushing at each other’s side, and then a little later it seemed that it was all agreed. It wasn’t until I fed them this evening that the result was revealed. The dominance of that little group starts with Bernard on top, then Hacker and then Gaffer. Gaffer had clearly lost that little fight – and probably the next round with Hacker which I didn’t see.
The good thing is that they don’t really seem to hold grudges as all three of them were in the hut sleeping together quite happily. Before I disturbed them with food that is, when the dominance was clear to see as Bernard pushed both Hacker and Gaffer off the first pile of food, and Hacker pushed Gaffer off the second pile… then Bernard came round again to push Hacker off the second pile, she then pushed Gaffer off the third pile, and Gaffer moved round to the first pile. This merry-go-round usually goes on until all the feed has gone.
Another incident the other day also made me think of dominance, specifically the pecking order. I was getting some food for the chickens, which involves bending down to get feed from the bin we store it in, when the cockerel jumped up and pecked me in the middle of the forehead, before landing back and staring at me insolently. It hurt, and I responded violently – I threw the feed in my hand at him. Which really had no effect on him, and he just started pecking away at it. I did also speak severely to him, but he seemed to ignore that as well. Still, I’m counting that as a win for me.