During lockdown I think many people have realised how important family and friends are and how many have missed socialising. The animal world is no different. Many animals can recognise each other after long periods of time apart. The sheep on the Estate are a good example – they show and recognise emotion by facial expressions with other sheep and, just as we know the sound of our own babies crying, the bleats of individual sheep are distinctive, enabling the ewe and her lambs to recognise each other. Many of our lambs, after being separated from their mothers at 6 months old, recognise and go back to their mothers when put back a few months later.
Our two large sows, Blueberry and Snuffle, have lived together since they were eight weeks old and had a lovely reunion after nine weeks apart to deliver and wean their piglets. Blueberry found it hard work to nurse nine piglets and both sows seem very relieved to stop feeding. Pigs are very intelligent and have a good long term memory; they were obviously delighted to recognise each other and spent a long time running around their paddock together, ears flapping and squealing.
Florence and Gretel our resident donkeys are pair bonded. meaning they have formed a strong bond with each other. Often they stand guard over each other and will graze very closely. Separating pair bonded donkeys causes huge distress, demonstrated by pining behaviour and a loss of appetite. But there is no concern about that here – our two donkeys can be seen grazing very closely together and are never separated.
All of the animals on the Estate recognise me as their care giver, often becoming very vocal when I am with them. I like to think it is because they know me, but I think it is probably because I feed them!
– Marie, Agricultural & Produce Manager