The view across the pasture is peaceful. The sheep and goat mothers are grazing with their babies in tall, green grass. The diligent guard-donkey, Beano, keeps watch for dangerous dogs and coyotes. Meadowlarks sing.
Then there’s a flurry of violent activity. A baby goat squeals in alarm. The mothers and babies form a tight, protective bunch.
Dog? Coyote? Mountain lion?
Nope. Maternal envy.
Beano emerges from the flock carrying a struggling goat kid, it’s hind leg in her mouth. The mother follows, alarmed but careful of Beano’s hooves.
As best as we can tell, Beano has maternal envy. Ever since the goats and sheep started birthing this spring, she’s periodically chosen a favorite baby and taken it away from its mother.
She doesn’t know quite what do to with the little thing. She carries it around by the leg or the ear. She stands over it while it rests. She violently resists the attempts of the rightful mother to take the baby back. Amazingly, all the babies have so far remained healthy and uninjured in spite of Beano’s abuse.
Then, after a few hours, she relents and starts shopping for another new baby. “The last one didn’t work out, but maybe that little brown over there will be my new baby.”
Now it’s possible that she hasn’t something else in mind. Beano likes attention. Maybe she just enjoys having the mothers chase her around. She also likes a good joke, and this might be an example of donkey humor.
But she seems deadly serious.
Beano turned 2 this spring. She’s a grown donkey now, and ready to have her own donkeylings. The most probable cause of this spring’s bizarre behavior is probably mommy-envy.
There’s only one logical solution. Does anybody out there want to loan me a miniature donkey jack for a little while?
Photo by Bryan Welch