A close look at Olive

Olive is a Romeldale/CVM lamb born to Gabby on March 4 of this year. The decisions made around her birth were described in my blog “Choices” posted on March 9. As a result of those choices, Olive became a bottle lamb and her brother, Oleander, became an adopted son of Fern’s. Both are doing well with their respective family units.

Olive settling into the rhythmic sucking of bottle feeding on Saturday.

Olive settling in to the rhythmic sucking of bottle feeding on Saturday.

As a bottle lamb, Olive’s feedings have been coming from us for all these weeks. Bottle feeding can be a calm and soothing time, both for the “bottler” and the “bottlee,” but if either of us is upset or stressed, it just doesn’t work well. At those times, Olive will root around trying to find the nipple as we frantically try to chase her with it as she desperately tries to imagine where it might go next. The secret to successful bottle feeding with Olive is to leave all stresses outside the door of the barn and to focus on the task at hand once she comes to get her milk.

As a result, Rick and I have each found our own way of focusing on the bottle feeding. Rick talks to Olive about his day, where he has been and what he has been doing. Olive settles down to a rhythmic suckling as he gives his accounting — and I suspect she is not the only one who benefits from this psychological data dump!

When I feed Olive, I spend a lot of time saying her name. My hope is that she will associate her name with good things and therefore come to me as an adult if I call her. I don’t know whether this will work; but it seems to have worked in the past with other bottle lambs like January, so I continue. I also spend time petting her and rubbing her neck and ears. It was in the process of this latter activity that I came upon a surprise: Olive’s eyelashes.

Now, I will admit that I don’t frequently get such a close look at the eyelashes of any of my sheep. Even though my sheep are fairly comfortable in my presence, they are still fairly active, moving from one feeder to the next, drinking and then moving to the hay, etc. It is not an easy thing to see any portion of a sheep closely unless you catch them and try to hold them still — and honestly, we do that infrequently, and only when we have to!

So when I noticed Olive’s eyelashes the other day, I was quite stunned with what I found. I knew that if I posted only a photo of Olive’s eye, my readers would be mystified and disappointed — so I first posted a photo of what Olive looks like drinking her bottle, above. After I tell you what I found, I can post below the photo of her eye, and you can see for yourself what I saw.

A close-up of Olive's eye: can you see the very long hairs above and below her eye?

A close-up of Olive’s eye: can you see the very long hairs above and below her eye?

Olive has the usual eyelashes that you can see when she blinks. Those are perhaps a half inch in length and there is nothing surprising there. But above those (and below the eye), she has some incredibly long lashes — or are they eyebrows? I’m thinking not eyebrows, since they are on both the top and bottom. I’m not sure what they are, but they are incredibly long! Look at those long hairs in the photo to the right! I’m not sure why they’re so long — or whether they’re even unusual. But now I can’t help but wonder: do all sheep have such long hairs above their eyes? Do all lambs? Do they fall out as the lambs mature? Will Olive always have these long hairs or will she lose them? And if she loses them, why does nature provide them in the first place?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but my curiosity has been aroused. You can be sure that this week I’ll be looking at a lot of sheep eyelashes/eyebrows as I go about my barn chores. I don’t know what I will find — but that is half the fun of the investigation! I’ll keep you posted.


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