Friday, August 26, 2011

Rumors of Good Ideas

A few miles to the west there was a small herd of camels living in a pasture visible from I-70. I have not seen them for some time. Local folklore has it that a few of the big ranches brought in camels because they would eat weeds and undesirable plants invading the prairie. Once in the bounty of the Flint Hills, the camels chose to eat the same nutritious fare as the cattle. The expensive camels became a liability then - a very bad idea. That was the rumor but I have no honest idea why camels were brought here. The weed theory seems plausible because, despite our best efforts, the true untouched prairie is going.

There is not much of a market for camels in Kansas. I have not seen cowboys riding camels. There are no camel clubs participating in the annual rodeos and parades here in cattle country. There has been no advertising for camel meat or milk. To be fair, I have not been looking for camels or their products, nor have I been to a rodeo in years. I admit that I genuinely do not know what I am talking about when it comes to why camel herds exist in Kansas.

Going east on I70, there are two zebras in the big pastures that are normally full of cattle. Zebras are rumored to protect cattle from coyote attack. Donkeys and large breeds of mountain dogs are also rumored to protect cattle from coyote attack.

I have no idea if donkeys and zebras would defend cattle against coyotes. But why would they? Zebras have no history or evolution with American cattle. Donkeys and zebras would be relieved that cattle, larger and far more numerous, are targeted by the coyotes. Better the cows than us, their equid DNA probably reasons.

If I were a coyote, a zebra would appear to be an easier kill than a 1500 pound cow. A cow could stomp a coyote to death with one leg. But again, I do not honestly know what I am talking about when it comes to zebras in Kansas. It all seems to be a rural myth, another rumor to me.

The large breed of mountain dogs protecting cattle against coyotes makes sense. Dogs have evolved with human beings and cattle. They have the DNA wiring for protecting cattle. And coyotes would certainly recognize those big dogs as enemies. Only the puppies would appear to be coyote food.

But then, I am of the opinion that coyotes do not kill calves in the first place. That shows what I know.

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