A HUDDLE OF DONKEYS

A strong wind was blowing across the veld when I happened upon these donkeys huddled together facing away from the wind and the inevitable dust that comes with it.

They were clearly aware of my presence

After a few moments the one nearest me turned to observe what I was doing. In two ticks it decided to stroll across to have its nuzzle rubbed gently.

BLESBOK

Look up Blesbok or Blesbuck (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) on Google and one is immediately made aware that these fine looking antelope are popular among hunters! This probably explains why Blesbok are seen in fairly large numbers on farms and game farms in this part of the Eastern Cape, as well as in game- and nature reserves.

These ones are part of a herd in a local nature reserve only a few minutes from town.

Blesbok are endemic to South Africa and are one of the fastest breeding plains game species in southern Africa, so doubtless make ideal ‘fodder’ for the hunting community. Apparently people are drawn to them for trophy hunting – I would far rather see their horns on a live antelope than hung up against a wall. Published photographs of hunters posing with the dead animals, all grinning with their weapon of choice held in various positions turn my stomach – what chance does a blesbok have against a high-powered rifle?

These animals are easily recognised by the distinct white blaze on their faces. They are predominantly a social species, although mature males commonly form bachelor herds.

This large herd of blesbok are in the Mountain Zebra National Park, where their preferred habitat is open grassland with a source of water nearby.

During our regular drives along local country roads, we have noticed how skittish the blesbok tend to be. They are very alert to passing traffic and will frequently snort and move off if we stop the vehicle. At the sound of the car window opening or even the click of my camera, the animals closest to the road charge off. Could this be because they are hunted?

AN URBAN BRAHMAN

A section of the Urban Herd has been joined by a new bull to sire future calves – a Brahman no less.

He was striding along the industrial road in the direction of the N2.

I mean really striding – at a pace that some of the cows with him were hard-pressed to keep up with. Look at the enormous hump above his shoulders and his characteristically light to dark grey coat.

His pronounced dewlap swung from side to side as this large animal strode along the edge of the road. This one is clearly not a pedigree, nonetheless as a member of the Brahman breed, he is a long way from home: Brahman cattle originated from the Bos indicus found in India. Brahman cattle were introduced as a commercial breed in South Africa in 1957, although the first of these cattle arrived here three years earlier. They are well adapted to climatic conditions in this country.

SOME COWS

Part of the Urban Herd has been around our suburb lately. These are a few of them outside my back gate:

As you can see the aloes on our pavement have not had much of a chance to grow as they keep getting munched. The red flowers are from the Erythrina caffra, which is now beginning to show a more dense leave cover. The tall spreading tree on the right is a Syringa, which is currently covered with bunches of berries.

Near our front gate is this cow. We call it the New Year Cow’s Calf’s Calf. This is because we know its grandmother – the New Year Cow – as well as its mother, the New Year Cow’s Calf. Sometimes we see all three together. The broad leaves in the foreground come from the Natal Fig in our garden; the tree in the ‘park’ in the background is a Brazilian Pepper; Cradock Road – leading into town from the hinterland – is behind it. A large herd of cattle that often roams the bushy hill, we call the Forest Cows. They also frequent what used to be a golf course.

This is one of those Forest Cows grazing on the edge of the golf course that was abandoned several years ago in favour of a new one created in a very fertile valley on the other side of town. This particular herd is characterised by the number of white animals in it.

Another of the Forest Cows on the old golf course, which is now a favourite place for dog walkers. The white bird is a Cattle Egret that hurried off as soon as I lifted my camera. It might be difficult to imagine golf being played on this area of land that nature is now reclaiming for its own. As you can see, the spiny thorns do not deter this cow from enjoying the spring-fresh leaves.