Predators have 2 eyes in front!

When people visit the farm one of the first things we talk about, before seeing the livestock, is how to interact with our cows and horses (& mini-horses).  We bred for temperament so we start out with fairly mellow livestock… but it’s important to understand where they, genetically, are coming from to avoid triggering survival instincts.

First Day on the Farm - Lady comes to Jim

These animals have historically been prey, i.e. food. They have developed some pretty strong instincts that allow them to survive in the wild. Animals (predators) that hunt them down have two eyes, that work together in front, that will stare at them!

Prey (future dinner meal) animals have eyes that look to the side and each eye actually works independently. One eye can look behind and the other can look ahead… almost 360 degree vision. AMAZING.  Their brains can make some sense out of this information. Safety & survival.

If your eyes are in front, you can’t see behind you or to the side very well, without turning your head.  But two eyes working together are better at judging distance, when you are in attack mode!

We had a cow who, I swear had surround vision! She could, with one eye, watch her food, and with the other eye, wait until we were in kicking range while milking. Grrr-r-r-r.

Predators also reach out with a stretched out open paw, claws extended, to attack. Guess what people automatically do? Reach up and out with extended fingers, to touch livestock on the head.

Prey animals are very sensitive to certain movements that humans make so we try to decrease their stress by encouraging visitors to do several things. Our goal is to make “socializing” positive for both sides, human and animal.

Methods:

One, don’t look directly at the animal (with both eyes) until they have been introduced to you. When

Don't Look DIRECTLY

looking directly at them (with both eyes) look away occasionally, to take the stress off them. I’ll turn my head slightly, so they can only see one eye.

I still do this with a “new mom” as she may be extra nervous with a newborn calf at her side.

Two, don’t reach up and out with an open hand, to touch the animal.  Put your hand out down low, with the back of your hand showing (fingers tucked away)… and let the animal reach out to you and sniff your hand.  THEN you can turn your hand over, and touch them. They can be incredibly sensitive & gentle with their muzzles.

Three, talk quietly, slowly, and in low tones. High pitched tones come from bobcats, etc!

Four, move slowly, and give them time to adjust to where you are moving to. ALWAYS let them know, quietly, if you are directly behind them to avoid spooking them. (They cannot see directly behind themselves.) FAST movements are perceived as a threat (predator after them).

Using these techniques works well.  The other interesting thing.. you don’t actually have to go directly up to the animal.  If you stand or sit still, they will come to you. They are incredibly curious and as long as they don’t perceive you as a threat… they will want to meet YOU.

Teasing Chocolate… being a bad boy!

Our Cocker Spaniel, Mick, loves to play with the new calf.  He thinks it’s HIS new playmate.  But mom has other ideas.  Because Mick has front eyes, moves quickly, and makes “attack” movements, she see’s him as a threat to her baby (despite knowing him since he was born!).

He’s making a nervous wreak out of our new mom. Poor Mick… he get’s put on a leash so that he will NOT tease Chocolate.  He’s only allowed to go out “under supervision”!

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