Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Leader

When new alpacas arrive at the farm there is always an uproar within the herd dynamics. Alpacas are herd animals, and that herd is very much a family. They each have a role within the herd. We have our herd leader, Victoria; our herd nervous nelly who watches out for everyone, Kateri; our herd look out who sounds the alarm if there is danger around, Miss Kitty.... and the list goes on. There is a hierarchy within the herd and the roles within the herd. For example, Snickers used to sound the alarm, but after Miss Kitty arrived, she took over that job. On our farm Victoria has always been the leader. Our first two alpacas were Victoria and Kateri (along with a gelding, Snowstorm). Victoria and Kateri used to have spit fights that went into neck wrestling fights. I am sure they were sorting out who was leader. After a time, Victoria emerged as the leader and she has been ever since. I've noticed when new alpacas come to the farm, sometimes they think they can take over. Miss Kitty had such an idea. Keep in mind here that Miss Kitty is 250 pounds, and Victoria tops out at 130 pounds, yet when it came down to it, Victoria knocked Miss Kitty down. I used to laugh at Miss Kitty trying to fight Victoria, she had no chance.

This past week when Bay and her two children arrived, I noticed very quickly that Bay is outgoing and very curious about her surroundings. Most of the time when a new alpaca comes to our farm, there is an initial sniffing time where the entire herd comes over and everyone sniffs each other (some of that is to determine if it is a male or female). After that, typically the new alpaca finds an area and does not venture far from there. In contrast, after everyone was done sniffing each other, Bay walked around the entire area, checking out the barn and the far pasture area. I mean she walked the far fence line, and took a good look at everything. I've never seen a new alpaca make herself at home like that. It was like she was checking out the entire place to take over. And as could be expected, it wasn't long and she and Victoria got into a fight.

Typically Victoria squeals and fights and if the alpaca still won't back down, I've seen Victoria pin their neck to the ground (as she did with Miss Kitty). That didn't happen here. Victoria and Bay spit at each other, then a neck wrestle got into full force. After awhile they both stepped back. Zack asked me who won, to which I said I think it was a draw and we won't know for a few days who is the winner and therefore the leader of the herd.

With these type of herd issues, we let the herd sort it out. It's their family, their world, they need to be in charge of how it goes. We do watch and observe, but that might be the social worker in me wanting to figure out how they think and work.

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