The hole in his head

I’ve been a shepherdess for over sixteen years, now, so I’ve seen a lot that deals with sheep during that time. In the early years, it was not at all unusual for me to run across things that I’d never ever seen before. It seemed like I was constantly having to do research about one thing or another as I stumbled across yet another issue that, to my inexperienced mind, seemed really unusual or sometimes even unfathomable. Thankfully, over the years that situation has become much less common – I’ve seen and dealt with a lot of different things and now have quite a base of experience to fall back on. Unfortunately, that does not help me much with Nahe and the hole in his head.

Nahe's most recent injury - most likely due to in-fighting with Noa in the neighboring field.

Nahe’s most recent injury – most likely due to in-fighting with Noa in the neighboring field.

What I do know about the situation is this: Nahe ends up coming to me periodically with what looks like a hole in his head, just between the eyes (perhaps a bit above, but not always) – looking much as if we would walk around with a hole in the middle of the bridge of our noses or foreheads. I must assume, based on history, that he is getting these holes from fighting with the other rams, since they usually seem to appear one at a time following a period during which he has been seen fighting with another adult ram. Nahe only ever has one of these holes at a time, and when it appears, it is usually about as big around as, say, a finger or thumb – and about a half inch deep below the surface of the skin. Since sheep don’t usually bleed very much from these superficial types of injuries, it requires little in the way of treatment. I usually simply wash it out with a wet cotton ball, treat it with some antibiotic ointment, and hit it with some fly spray (being careful not to get the spray into his eyes).

Top view of Nahe's current injury - these types of fighting in juries are more common in the area between the ears rather than between the eyes.

Top view of Nahe’s current injury – these types of fighting in juries are more common in the area between the ears rather than between the eyes.

I know thatis all seems very simple and straightforward, since it seems that I have figured out both the cause (ram in-fighting) and the cure (medical treatment and time). My problem with these holes is that I cannot figure out exactly how he gets them. Seriously, think about it for a moment. For the vast majority of the year, sheep are like big wool balls that lumber around our fields. They have no pointy parts (unless they have horns, which our sheep do not), nor do they have any access to weapons or tools for fighting. Over the years, their fields have been scoured for any type of sharp corner that might tear a coat, and these have been eliminated. That being the case, how is Nahe gouging out holes in his forehead?

The first couple of times it happened, I thought that perhaps he was not getting the hole from the other ram or rams, but was instead getting them in frustration by ramming a nearby tree with his head. An appropriately sized tree branch could easily gouge this type of hole in his head, so my curiosity was satisfied. Yet, earlier this week, Nahe again came to me with obvious smears of blood on his face and one of these holes in his head. There was not a tree anywhere near his altercation with Noa, who challenged him and egged him on, hoping to fight in the neighboring field. So how did Nahe gouge out that hole in his head?

I have no idea how this occurs – only that it does. Nahe is not the only ram to end up with this type of injury, but he is definitely the most likely. I’ve only ever seen this in adult rams – again, a good reason to believe that it comes from ram in-fighting, since the younger boys are not nearly as determined to win in battle as the mature rams. I’m not sure I will ever figure out this puzzle, but Nahe seems to care little whether I understand it or not. He is simply satisfied to know that he will get to nibble on graham crackers as I treat his wound, and then that I will let him go to tend to his own business – which could again include trying to put Noa in his place!



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