Friday, July 28, 2017

Meet Rose and Yeti

Having a small sheep flock is supposed to be simple. They can graze around the house to keep things mowed and otherwise pretty much take care of themselves. Then it seemed like a nice safe barn and pen would be a good idea in addition to a well-fenced pasture. When I discovered coyote and bobcat tracks in the snow of their pasture last winter I realized we needed another layer of protection (so much for simple). 

We read up on all the options from llamas and donkeys to dogs but in the end realized that only livestock guardian dogs could handle our bigger predators - lions and bears. 

The livestock guardian breeds were developed and used for thousands of years throughout the lands from the western Iberian Peninsula and Pyrenees mountains, into western Europe, Turkey and central Asia, all the way to the Himalayas. Each area developed a breed that was well suited to the locale and the predators found there. 

Our research into livestock guardian dogs (LGD) identified several breeds that would be well suited to our situation and needs and in the end we decided on a Maremma and Karakachan team. 

The Maremma Sheepdog traces its heritage back to the dogs of shepherds in central Italy who protected the flocks from wolves and bears. They are independent thinkers who bond very closely to their flock so they tend to stay close to home and are dominant yet accepting of non-threatening people. They were first imported to the U.S. in the 1970s for the first extensive studies on the use and effectiveness of LGDs. Maremmas proved to be one of the most successful breeds in those studies.

The Karakachan Dog of Bulgaria was developed by an ancient group of nomadic people who traveled over the region with their herds of sheep and horses. This traditional way of life continued into the early twentieth century. The breed is not well know in the U.S. as importation did not occur until the mid-2000s. They are one of the smaller breeds of LGDs but their fearlessness is legendary. Cat Urbigkit in her book, Brave and Loyal, calls the Karakachan the "bear brawlers of the Balkans" and in Bulgaria those are brown bears! 

We were very fortunate to find a very knowledgeable breeder in Iowa with a litter of each and in early March our pups, at three months of age, arrived by livestock transport. Rose is a female Karakachan and Yeti is a male Maremma.

Rose, Yeti and Cody (who went on to a farm north of Denver).
Both pups were born in a barn in the dead of winter surrounded by sheep and goats. The perfect start for future LGDs. It can take up to two years for LGDs to be fully mature and capable of 24/7 protection of the flock especially against our bigger predators. In the meantime our pups spend a good part of their day with our small flock but everyone is locked up in safe surroundings for the night.

So meet Rose and Yeti, two adorable goofballs who have enriched our lives so much!

Ian (black pile at the bottom of the tree) with Yeti and Rose
From Fleur Creek Farm

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