Working Together

Cow Bird 01The other day I was out with my camera and had the good fortune to get these pictures of a cowbird and Dancer. The cowbirds graze with the horses most of the summer into early fall. They use the horses to scare up insects that they then light upon and eat. It got me to thinking back on the times I have seen other animals working with the horses, as they graze, using them to scare up a meal.

It was a couple of years ago when Dave Reynolds had a herd of mares up on his pasture and my horses were grazing with them. It was early morning and I walked out to visit with them; since they were up in my pasture. I came out to find a group of coyotes standingCow Bird 02 among the horses as they grazed. I was a little concerned, but realized the horses were not. As the horses grazed they scared up a rabbit and off the coyotes went to get their breakfast. They lost the rabbit and quietly came back to hang with the horses. Finally, everyone wandered off in search of better grass and more rabbits.

Although this was not a case of working together it still falls in that category, as far as the horses are concerned. As seems to mostly be the case, it was morning and I looked out to see Ricky and Dancer prancing a little funny. It got my attention and out I went to figure it out. A badger had wandered on to the property and the two horses were gently herding it off the property with their light prancing motions. The badger wanted to go east but the horses wanted it off the property, by the most direct route, and were herding it North. They keep at it till the badger finally crossed under the fence and wattled off, now able to head East.

The deer will graze with the horses throughout the year. It is for protection because coyotes do not bother the horses. Lately in the Southwest Black Hills the deer have not been seen doing this because of the reduced numbers of young taken by coyotes and a growing number of cougar.
One has to always remember that nature is a harsh task master. And, when you mix in the naive machinations of man, extremes are most always the result.