We have a Bengal eagle-owl on our farm.
Owls cannot move their eyes. Instead, they rotate their heads 270 degrees. Owls have special feathers that help muffle the sound when they fly.
Many owls have asymmetrical ears that are different sizes and different heights on their heads. This gives them superior hearing and the ability to pinpoint where prey is located, even if they can’t see it.
Owls have zygodactyl feet – meaning two toes point forward and two toes point backwards. All their toes have sharp talons, used to catch their prey.
Not all owls hoot. They can make a wide range of other sounds, such as screeches, whistles, growls, rattles and hisses.
The highland cow, as its name suggests, originated in the Scottish Highlands. It is the oldest breed in the world and is smaller and hardier than most commercial breeds.
Its coat of long, woolly hair, its stout body and its sweeping horns all help it to withstand harsh highland conditions, freezing temperatures and low-quality forage.
Their hair consists of a soft fluffy undercoat protected by a long, strong, outer coat that can reach up to 14 inches in length. The fringe of hair on their forehead, often covering their eyes, is called a ‘dossan’.
The red deer is the only native deer species present in Ireland. They are easily frightened, timid animals and are very sensitive to sound and smell. The deer we have here are quite tame and will often come to you looking for food, which is unusual for deer.
A male deer is called a stag. In the springtime his antlers fall off, and he will grow new antlers each year for the mating season. A female deer is called a hind, and she will usually give birth to one baby each year, called a fawn. Fawns have distinctive white spots on their back when they are still young.
Deer run very fast and jump very high. We must use 2.75m (9’) high fencing to keep them contained.
The flightless ostrich is native to sub-Saharan Africa and is the world’s largest bird. They can run up to
70km/h. They can use their powerful legs as weapons and the long, sharp claw on their foot can even kill predators like a lion.
Ostriches have the biggest eyes of all land animals, and have excellent eyesight, seeing up to 3.5km away.
Ostrich lay an egg which has the mass of two dozen chicken eggs and both the female and male take turns incubating the giant eggs. Even though ostrich eggs are now the largest bird’s egg, they are – in proportion to the bird’s size and weight – the smallest.
Sheep are timid animals that live in flocks. They copy one another and typically they will eat and rest together, following one another to grazing pastures.
Sheep often eat all facing the same way, and with the wind blowing towards them. This helps them to catch the scent of predators. As well as eating grass, lowland sheep often forage in hedges for leaves and weeds, which are a small but important part of their diet.
Sheep have no front teeth on their upper jaw, so to eat they must tear the grass by jerking their heads forwards and upwards. They are natural lawnmowers; they crop the grass very closely!
Donkeys are gentle animals, but can be very stubborn! They are particularly hardy and sure-footed; they can carry great weights.
Donkeys are distinctive for their long ears, short upright mane, and a black stripe across their shoulders.
A male donkey is called a jack and a female is called a jenny. Donkeys are less common now in Ireland since tractors and machines are used in farming, but they are more common for grazing barren land or sometimes as family pets!