The Art (And Luck) Of Taking a Farm Animal Selfie
Sometimes the story behind the photo makes it a bit more special for me. This is especially true for the selfies I attempt to get with our farm animals. The selfie above of Sue and I with our neighbors camel Sandy was to be the first of many. Being affectionate, it was actually fairly easy to get a selfie with Sandy, but that's not the case for all farm animals.
Some of the animals at Ozark Akerz, like the Cotton Patch Geese, are particularly easy to get close to. The goslings were only a few days old when we brought them to Ozark Akerz and they have firmly bonded with us as their parents. On the other hand, the Pineywoods Cattle are much more varied. Some will allow us to scratch them (a perfect opportunity for a selfie when they approach us), others want us to stay at arms length and will swing their horns to warn us not to get too close. And yet Dave, the Pineywoods that loves a scratch more than the entire herd put together, has proven the hardest to get a selfie with.
The selfie challenge with Dave is that he's pushy. He will push us around and headbutt us with that big head of his to let us know he’s ready for a scratch. Once the scratching commences, his pushiness stops, but as soon as we stop scratching the pushing starts again. If we try to walk off, he’ll follow us around; more pushing and headbutting. He's not aggressive, but it's hard to concentrate on taking a photo when you're trying to keep from being inadvertently trodden on by an overly friendly 1000 lb animal!
There’s a good reason why Dave is pushy. There is a pecking order in the herd and the Pineywoods use a combination of their weight, their agility and their horns to spar for their rank in the herd. Dave doesn’t have horns so he uses his weight and agility more.
Dave is rare for Pineywoods, most of them have horns. But his mamma Louise is polled (born without horns) and his pappa Rocky is horned. Usually, the horns are dominant in the offspring but in Dave’s case he has what we call nubs (officially called scurs). They look like a large, rough toenail but unlike horns they are not attached to the skull, only the hide.
Dave’s propensity for being pushy means it’s almost impossible to get a selfie with him. Even when we try to get near him while he’s lying down, he’ll get up and hunt us down for a scratch. But that all changed on a cold January morning in 2021.
My buddy Troy who lives in Calgary, Canada sent me a tuque (snow hat, toboggan, wooly hat..) from the marijuana company he was working for. It was a frosty morning, and I donned my new tuque before heading out to do morning chores, feeding and watering the turkeys, chickens and guineas and laying out fresh organic straw in the chicken house. The turkeys, guinea fowl and geese (they joined us in the spring 2021) all roost and sleep there at night, but we got chickens first so it’s simply called the chicken house.
When I had finished chores, I went through the gate to the lower pasture to check on the Pineywoods herd. I figured while I was out there, I could try and get a selfie with the Pineywoods for Troy. I owed him for the tuque. I wasn’t sure if he could use any photo, but as Brand Evangelist and Territory Sales Manager, I figured he’d find a use.
I had barely entered the pasture when I saw Dave steadfastly marching my way after getting a drink at the waterer about 300 feet away. His thirst quenched it was time for a scratch. Another bull, Uno, was nearby. Uno is quite a poser so I quickly lined up with him and took about 10 shots. I checked and saw that there was at least one photo that had turned out pretty good. About that time, Dave arrived, pushing and headbutting as usual. With the phone still in hand, I figured I’d try for the umpteenth time to get a selfie with him, but as usual his pushing and shoving made it impossible.
Then I had an idea, I would let Dave’s headbutts set the scene for the selfie. I decided I would hold the phone at arm’s length below Dave’s head when he lowered it to prepare for a headbutt, he’d hopefully be looking in the general direction of the camera. But my arm was not long enough and the first 5 snaps were of top of Dave’s head, and I was not in the frame at all. I needed to get closer. So I did what on reflection was probably a bit reckless. This all happened in a matter of seconds: I kneeled on one knee in front of Dave, waited for him to lower his head in preparation for a headbutt then moved forward, took the picture and threw myself backward to dodge his headbutt as he raised his head.
After I had picked myself up and checked to make sure I hadn’t landed in cow shit (I hadn’t), I checked my phone to see if my idea had worked. The phone had run out of batteries.
Later that day, when my phone was charged, I saw the result. It was perfectly focused. Although my whole head wasn’t in the frame my nose, glasses and the logo on the tuque showed. But the biggest surprise? Dave was starting directly into the camera. At first glance, it looked like Dave and I were staring at a chessboard, contemplating our next move.
Dave was winning.
The next day I was about to send the picture to Troy. But Troy and the entire sales force had been laid off and outsourced that very morning. He now has a new job for a hydroponics equipment company and is following his passion for growing heirloom varieties of organic marijuana and exploring methods for growing weed regeneratively.
Needless to say I don’t wear that tuque anymore. I flip between my Carolina Panthers and a Miami Ink tuque. But Troy, if you hadn’t sent me that tuque, the selfie with Dave wouldn’t have happened and neither would this story. Cheers mate!
Let’s face it, selfies with animals are fun, but it can be challenging to get a good one. The selfie with Dave is not a great photo, but my memory of it makes it better in my eyes. I usually have to take quite a few to get one that's worth showing Sue and then sharing with the rest of you. Part of it is knowing how to hold the phone but more of it is knowing the animals. I didn't attempt a selfie with any of the Pineywoods until they had been here for 2 years. It took that much time to build up enough confidence to be near them without 100% of my attention paid to the animal. I must always respect those horns. If I'm in the wrong place when they use them to swipe a fly off their back it probably won't end well. This is the one of the first selfies I tried with a Pineywoods, I was nervous!
Scroll down to see more selfies with the Pineywoods
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