Thursday, June 16, 2016

Meet the Neighborhood Pets

Mara on a Hillside

I live on a farm, in a small village, in a rural district, in a little country, in the bottom corner of the African continent.  I’ve talked a lot about Lesotho and Mokhotlong but not a lot about my farm.  I thought I would take this opportunity to write about some of the animals on and around the property.  There are 61 sheep (only 11 live here), 6 chickens, 1 awful cock, 3 dogs, 1 cat, 1 horse, 3 donkeys, le nna (and me).  

Mara, meaning a squad of soldiers, is a 15 year old stallion.  My host father, Ntate Mokotjo Sekonyela, often rides him to other villages.  Whenever there is a local issue, the villagers will often hold a community meeting, called a pitso, to try and resolve or at least understand the issue.  Mokotjo is the chief of the Popa region and is required to oversee many of these pitsos.  

Here a few week old donkey gives me an inquisitive look.  Donkeys are the transportation bread and butter of Lesotho.  Most households own at least one for labor purposes.  I commonly see them carrying everything from giant bags of papa (corn meal), to cases of beer, and even Basotho riders. 


Ntate Mokotjo plowing one of his many fields with the donkeys.  When combined as they are, they can plow an 8 inch deep trench, through bone dry earth, at a slow walking pace.  I imagine if they were motivated they could move quite a bit faster but donkeys aren’t exactly the “go getters” of the animal kingdom.  

R.I.P. Mr. Whiskers.  

We did have two cats but this little guy died.  Mokotjo said he “ate poison”, whatever that means.  Now we’re only left with Fluffy, the gnarly cat that’s eating the goat leg in the blog “Conference Weekend“. 

Chicken Co(u)p

Here the chickens plan to upgrade their coop to a house, using a military styled overthrow.  I mean they’re chickens, nothing more to say.

My neighbors are very poor.  They own this cow and a calf.  Around a year ago this cow broke its leg at the knee and has been hobbling around ever since.  It’s difficult to look at because the animal is clearly in pain but at the same time, this cow represents the single greatest asset that the family owns. 
Mean Dog Under Moonlight

I took this photo at 11pm using a 62 second exposure at f / 5.6.  This is our guard dog.  He is pretty large for a Basotho dog at around 100 lbs.  His name roughly translates to “Enemy” or “Intruder” in English but I call him Beast (Sandlot anyone?).

He spends the days chained up near his dog house.  At night he is released and free to roam the yard.  It took two months before I felt comfortable going out at night.  I am often awakened by the sound of a dogfight and I get the feeling Beast doesn’t lose many of them.  

This is one of the other dogs.  There aren’t a lot of lap dogs in Lesotho.  In fact this is the only one I’ve ever seen.  This little guy is about the same size and shape as a dachshund but with a more squat face.  He just sleeps all day and roams about at night with Beast, presumably eating children who wander into our yard.  

Handsome Ram

And the runner up for the Ha Mohlabakobo beauty contest goes to this guy (I just barely beat him for first place).  We have 10 sheep and this one ram on our property.  The other 50 sheep are grazing 80 km away up near the Letseng Diamond mine.  Mokotjo hires a shepherd to watch over them during the year.  There isn’t enough grazing land around most villages, hiring shepherds to take animals to more rural areas is common practice.  

I like puppies…
…especially with gravy.


- Joel