Saturday, February 28, 2015


Clun Forest Sheep Ewe

Well, since it's the Year of the Sheep, I thought I had better get busy writing about some sheep.  I actually thought there wouldn't be much to write about, because how many kinds of sheep could there be?  You've got your white sheep, your black sheep, your white sheep with black faces, and maybe some spotted sheep.  And then there a few goats, like those cute little pygmy goats, for example.

So imagine my total shock when I looked up "sheep breeds" and found out that there are hundreds of them!  And not only that, I haven't really heard of any of them!  Which I guess means that it will be a busy Year of the Ram after all!

The County of Shropshire

Anyway, I decided to start with some of those English sheep that have the black faces, because I think they are really cool-looking.  So I scrolled through the list of sheep breeds until I found just what I was looking for.  There may be other breeds that fit the same description, but the one I'm going to tell you about today is the Clun Forest Sheep.  ("Clun" rhymes with "sun," in case you were wondering.)

The Clun Forest is in the county of Shropshire, which is right nextdoor to Wales.  It is a rural area, and it has lots of open pastures and moorlands, besides actually having some woodlands.  Once upon a time, there was a much thicker forest in the Clun River Valley, but there aren't so many trees now.

Clun Forest sheep are similar to other breeds of British Upland sheep.  They are hardy, good at finding plenty of forage to eat, and they live a long time.  The ewes give birth easily, and almost always have twins.  The wool on these sheep is medium in length and is suitable for handspinning.  Besides being raised for their wool, Cluns are also kept for meat and for milk.

U.K. Clun ewes imported to the Netherlands

The ancestors of this breed go back a long way and are shared with other Upland breeds along the Welsh-English border.  When the Clun Forest sheep were first mentioned in writing, early in the 1800s, they were described as having white faces.  But this changed when they were crossed with some dark-faced breeds.  In 1925, The Clun Forest Sheep Breeders Society was formed in Great Britain.  They soon established a pedigree standard and started having sheep shows.

After World War II, and until the 1970s, the Clun became a very popular breed.  In fact, it was the third most popular purebred sheep in the U.K.  Breeders sold over a thousand sheep a year, with flocks being established in eastern England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Cluns from the Court Llacca Flock in Wales

In 1970, a man named Tony Turner imported 2 Clun rams and 39 ewes to the U.S.  The North American Clun Forest Association (NACFA) was founded in 1974.  A few more sheep were imported in the late 1970s and mid-1980s, but after that, U.S. and Canadian borders were closed to live sheep imports.  However, semen from some of the top rams in the U.K. and the Netherlands was imported in the mid-2000s.

Clun Forest Sheep have a powerful build.  Their upright ears make the sheep look alert and intelligent, as if they as just waiting for you to say something profound.  The lambs grow quickly because of the high butterfat content of the mothers' milk.  By the age of 7 or 8 months, they can reach a market weight of 100 lbs., eating only grass.  The meat has a lean and mild flavor.  The rich milk makes good cheese.

Well, writing about all this yummy mutton and cheese is making me hungry.  I know that some of my faithful readers will be horrified to think that I would want to eat a cute, fluffy lamb, but the fact is that there is lots of dog food out there on the market that has lamb in it.  I have eaten some of it, and I have liked it.  Also, a lot of people eat lamb, too, but Mom doesn't because she is being a vegetarian now.

Okay, so that's the first sheep breed in the Year of the Sheep.  I think I am going to learn a lot about sheep before the year is over, and probably about goats, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


If you watched the Westminster Kennel Club show this year, you probably saw a cute white dog called the Coton de Tuléar in the Toy Group.  And if you missed this dog, you might have been dozing off, which you should never do during the Toy Group, because chihuahuas are in the Toy Group, and chihuahuas are the cutest dogs of all!

Coton de Tuléar puppy

Anyway, if you saw the Coton de Tuléar, you maybe also heard the TV announcer say that this was the first year the breed had been in the Westminster show.  Cotons were only just recognized by the AKC in 2012, and it takes a year or two for any dogs in a new breed to get enough points and titles and stuff to be invited to Westminster.

In the show ring
Photo by Jurriaan Schulman

The name of the breed is French for "cotton from Tuléar."  Tuléar is a city on the southern Madagascar coast, and another name for it is Toliara.  The coat of this type of dog is very cottony, instead of being silky or furry.  The Coton de Tuléar does not shed, so it's a hypoallergenic breed, the same as poodles.  However, the hair mats easily, so the dogs have to be brushed pretty much every day.

There are three accepted colors for this breed:  white (sometimes with tan markings), black-and-white, and tri-color.  Cotons have a gene for "fading," so puppies who are born with a tan coat may fade out to white as an adult.  A tri-color may fade to mostly white with some champagne markings and a dusting of black on the ears or body.  For the show ring, pure white is the preferred color, but the AKC allows the other colors of Cotons to be shown.

The eyes of the Coton de Tuléar are round and dark.  They should make the dog look lively, intelligent, and happy.  The nose is prominent and black.  Coton legs are somewhat short, and the tail curls over the back.  The standard for the American breed club says that the weight of the dog should not be more than 18 pounds.  The average weight is between 11 and 15 pounds.  The standard height is between 9" and 13".

Members of this breed are intelligent, gentle, alert, and affectionate.  They are good with children and other animals, and they can live in an apartment.  They love to swim, run and play.  Generally, they are happy to meet new people, and they are curious in new situations.  It's easy to train them because they really like to please their people.  Many Cotons have the funny habit of walking and jumping on their hind legs.

No one knows for sure how the Coton got to Madagascar, but it's likely that some sort of bichon-type dogs were brought on pirate ships in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Once they arrived on the island, the dogs mated with native dogs, and the Coton type of dog was born.  These dogs were soon being used as companion dogs of the Merina, which was the ruling tribe in Madagascar.  In fact, only the royalty were allowed to keep Cotons.

In 1973, Dr. Robert Jay Russell discovered the breed in Madagascar and brought the first ones to America.  He called the breed The Royal Dog of Madagascar, and the name stuck.  Some French colonists occasionally brought Cotons back to France, but the dogs were not officially imported to Europe until the 1970s.

This breed, like some other breeds, has a very small gene pool.  And that means that in order to go on getting Cotons that look like the breed standard says they should look, you have to keep breeding close relatives to each other.  This is not a very good thing to do because it causes inherited health problems.  The Coton de Tuléar doesn't have as many issues as some breeds do, but they have a few.  Examples of these include liver shunts, and problems with the heart, spine, and eyes.  The average life span of a Coton is 14 to 19 years.    

There are a lot of reasons why a Coton de Tuléar might be a good dog for your family to have, but the breed is still pretty rare.  That means you could have to pay as much as $1,800 to $3,500 for a puppy.  For that amount of money, you could adopt at least 9 retired greyhounds or other purebred rescues.  Or you could pay to have 1 or 2 luxating patellas fixed on a chihuahua.  And in my opinion, that would be a much better way to use your money!

Thursday, February 19, 2015


And it's also the year of the Sheep and the year of the Goat.  How is this possible?  Well, the Chinese character yáng can mean any of these animals.  But the traditional symbol which has been used among the majority Han people is the Goat.  However, because sheep are sweet and fluffy and cute, some people choose them as their mascot instead of the goat.

The Sheep is the most feminine and artistic sign of the zodiac.  Sheep people are creative and they have a good sense of fashion.  Traveling is something they really like to do, and simple things such as a beautiful object, a scene from nature, or a piece of music can make them very happy.  Best of all, they like to relax in a place where they don't feel pressured, and where they don't have to follow routines or schedules.

Sheep Year people are considerate and thoughtful, always trying not to hurt the feelings of others.  But because they are so sensitive they avoid confrontation and taking unpopular stands.  They need to feel loved and protected, especially by family members.  On the outside, Rams may seem dreamy and starry-eyed, but inside, they may feel anxious and insecure.  They sometimes take refuge in religion, astrology, or the occult.

In love affairs, Sheep year people are sweet and sensitive and hard to resist -- even if they are acting a little lazy or bossy.  They need to feel that they can count on their partner's love, and if they can't, they become insecure and emotional.  Because of their shyness, it is hard for Rams to start conversations with strangers, so they usually have to be introduced to potential partners by friends.

The kind of work that Sheep people do best is creative and may involve working with others who can be supportive.  The job should not be routine or have strict schedules.  Also, it should not involve competing with others because that makes Rams feel worried and stressed.  Some good job choices for Sheep include actor, painter, musician, astrologer, landscaper, interior designer, dancer, investor, daycare worker, grade school teacher, pediatrician, or researcher.

The forecast for 2015, which is the year of the Green Wooden Sheep, is that fortunes will fluctuate.
It will be a time to leave behind any unstable affair or connections and try to create more honest relationships.  There may not be any promotions or increases in salary, and investments should be made carefully.  The best way to avoid conflict is to be tolerant of family, friends, and colleagues.

For all of us, even if we weren't born in the Year of the Ram, this will be a smoother, calmer year than the Year of the Horse.  It is a time to relax and make peace with others and with ourselves.  The influence of the Sheep makes us feel more emotional, caring, and closer to home and family.  We will also be more creative and productive, but should try not to be too sensitive and easily discouraged.

Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore, Feb. 15, 2015
Wikipedia, Photo: C1815

The Sheep often lets the moderates and doves of the world be heard, which can bring an end to some wars and international conflicts.  Everyone will have the chance to slow down a little and do some introspection.

Famous Year of the Ram people include Michelangelo, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, George Burns, Thomas Alva Edison, Orville Wright, Robert De Niro, John Denver, George Harrison, Sir Laurence Olivier, John Wayne, Barbara Walters, Bruce Willis, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, and Claire Danes.

Chinese home decorated for the New Year
Wikipedia, Photo: Whoisgalt

The New Year's celebration begins on New Year's Eve and last for 7 days in some places, and for as long as 15 in others.  People may travel a long way so they can be with family and friends.  They eat special foods and decorate their houses with verses written on red paper.  On the last day of the holiday, everyone dresses in red, which is a lucky color that keeps bad luck and evil away.  People shoot off fireworks and give each other gifts wrapped in red paper.

Many places around the world celebrate the Chinese New Year, including a lot of Asian countries, and Western countries that have large Asian populations.  In my house, none of us has ancestors from Asia, but we still like this holiday because it is so interesting and colorful.  And it gives me a good chance to wish all my faithful blog readers a very happy Year of of the Ram!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


This entry is about mustang horses, and not about Ford Mustangs.  I don't want anybody to be confused about that.  There's a connection, though, because the name Mustang was probably chosen for the sports car because it makes people think that if they drive a Mustang, they can just speed along, wild and free, over the land, like a wild horse does.  Which is a good way to sell cars, I guess, but I am just a little dog who has never worked in advertising, so I wouldn't know for sure.  What I do know is that nobody has ever named a car model "The Chihuahua."  And that's a real shame, if you ask me.

But getting back to horses, I will just say that everybody pretty much knows that a mustang is a wild horse.  Except that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is responsible for the mustangs, says that they should be called feral and not wild, because their ancestors were tame at some point in the past.  The English word mustang comes from the Spanish word mesteño, which means "stray livestock animal."

Most mustangs are descended from the Iberian horses that were brought to North America by the Spaniards.  Some mustangs also have a large mix of ranch stock and more recent breed releases.  Mustangs in general are medium-sized -- 14 to 15 hands (56" to 60") tall, and weigh about 800 pounds.  The most common colors are bay, reddish brown, or chestnut.  But they can also have other colors, patches, spots, and stripes.

Mustangs live in large herds that consist of one stallion, plus about eight females and their young.  One of the mares serves as leader of the herd, along with the stallion.  If there is danger, the mare will lead the herd away from it while the stallion stays behind to fight.  Stallions who are leaders of herds are generally at least six years old.

Photo:  Melissa Farlow
National Geographic, February 2009
Most feral horses live in the grasslands of the western United States. There are also some living on the Atlantic coast and on the Sable, Shackleford, Assateague, and Cumberland Islands.  The BLM manages the mustang population and lets the horses run free on 34 million acres of public land.  Since 1971, about 271,000 mustangs have been removed from private land by the government.

Before people began settling in the western states, it was not a problem to have a large population of feral horses there.  But after cattle began competing with the mustangs for grazing land, some ranchers made it a policy to shoot mustangs.  In addition, horses were captured for military use or were killed for their meat, which was especially used in pet food.  At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about two million feral horses in the West, but by 1926, the population was only half that size.  Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971 to protect unbranded, unclaimed horses and burros.  The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service are in charge of administering the act.
The number of mustangs and burros that the BLM considers to be manageable is about 26,000.  But in 2010, there were 33,700 horses and 4,700 burros running free on public lands.  More than half of all mustangs currently live in Nevada, with quite a few more in Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon.  Another 34,000 are in holding facilities.

There is a lot of controversy about the mustangs' being on public lands.  Some people say they are part of the natural heritage of the American West, and that they have a right to be there.  Others think they are an invasive species, because they were brought in with the Spaniards and other Europeans.  The fact is that most current mustang herds live in areas that cattle cannot use because there is a lack of water.  Horses have evolved to range nine times farther from water sources than cattle can.  They can travel as far as 50 miles in a day, which allows them to use land that cattle cannot get to.  Also, the digestive system of horses lets them get nutrients from poor forage in places where cattle would starve.

Arizona Mustangs
Photo:  John Harwood
The only natural predators of mustangs are mountain lions, and sometimes grizzly bears and wolves.  Unfortunately, the number of predators has been reduced so much that the wild horse population has become too large.  In order to control it, the BLM rounds up mustangs periodically and offers them for adoption.  A person or group can adopt a mustang if they show they can provide humane, long-term care for the animal.  The adoption fee is $125, which is less than it costs to adopt a greyhound or even a chihuahua!

Mustang gelding adopted from the BLM
Photo:  Ealdgyth
For the first year after adoption, the mustang still belongs to the government.  This is to make sure the adopters are not trying to sell it for a bunch of money or make horse meat out of it.  At the end of the year, the adopters have to show that the horse has had proper veterinary care.  After that, they get a title and become the owners of the horse.

Image from NDomer73
As of 2010, almost 225,000 mustangs had been adopted, but sadly, there are still lots more captured horses than there are people to adopt them.  Right now, there are about 34,000 mustangs in holding facilities and long-term grassland pastures.  Several different solutions to this problem have been suggested, including euthanasia for older horses who have been passed over at least 3 times for adoption, federal wild-horse preserves in the Midwest, private sanctuaries, and more assistance in finding adopters.  One example of this last idea is a competition called The Extreme Mustang Makeover, where trainers have 100 days to gentle and train 100 mustangs.  The horses are then adopted through an auction.

©1997 Oklahoma State University
So now you know that if you want to adopt a mustang of your very own, you can get one from the nice folks at the BLM.  You just have to train it so you can ride it or whatever, and you have to
 promise not to turn your horse into dog food, which would be an icky thing to do anyway!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

THE TRUTH ABOUT ME, by Tristan the dog

Mom decided to get one of those tests done for me that show what dog breeds are lurking in your DNA.  We had always thought I was part chihuahua and part terrier of some sort.  The terrier part of me gave me my cute, whiskery face and my long legs.  The chihuahua part gave me my small size and round little head.  At least that's what we thought, so it seemed like Mom was just wasting her money to pay for having my DNA checked out.

But Mom was in the mood to waste her money anyhow, and I was forced to donate some blood so the test could get done.  The company that does these tests is called Royal Canin®, and they make dog food.  They don't know how to spell canine right, but I guess no one has told them this.  Anyway, the test is called Genetic Health Analysis™.

It took a really long time to get the results of the test, but yesterday we finally went to visit Dr. Vodraska, and she told us all about what the test said.  First of all, it turns out that I do not have any chihuahua in me at all!  Not a single drop!  We were totally shocked to learn this.  What I do have is mainly two breeds.  One of these is RAT TERRIER, and the other is MINIATURE POODLE!  Okay, the terrier part is what we expected, but POODLE???  Give me a break!

A miniature poodle.  Looks just like me, right?
The DNA test shows my ancestry for three generations.  In every generation, from my great-grandparents to my parents, there is 25% miniature poodle, 25% rat terrier, and 50% mixed breed.   Five breeds had enough DNA to be listed separately in the mixed-breed group.  The three that show up the strongest are Irish Terrier, Otterhound, and Jack Russell Terrier.  The other two are Jindo and English Toy Spaniel.

With all these breeds in my background, the nice people at Royal Canin® predicted that I would be between 19 and 33 pounds in size.  Hahahaha!  I only weigh 6 pounds!  But Dr. Vodraska said I was the perfect weight, and she would never want to see me weigh 19 pounds!

I told Mom that if she ever cut my hair to look like one of those silly poodles, I would have to bite her on the neck.  But Mom said my hair was too short and wiry to be groomed that way.  And I guess I have to admit that poodles with regular haircuts don't look nearly as ridiculous as those poodles in dog shows.  My sister Dorrie wrote a blog entry all about poodles.  It seems like the kind of poodles I should have in my background are toy poodles or teacup poodles because they are more my size than miniature poodles.  But that is one of the weird things about this test.  All of my ancestors were bigger than I am.  Mom thinks this might mean that I was the runt of the litter.  Well, if I'm going to be a runt, I'm going to be a feisty one!

I found this picture of a rat terrier that looks
quite a bit like me, especially in the ears and head.
I am much prouder of being descended from rat terriers than from the poodles.  Last February at the Westminster Dog Show, rat terriers got to be shown for the first time.  This was because the AKC had finally recognized that they were a real dog breed.  Dorrie also wrote a blog entry about rat terriers, if you want to find out more about them.

Irish Terrier
So I got my terrier-ness from the rat terrier side of the family, and I must have got something -- but I'm not sure what -- from the poodle side.  Mom and I had been wondering where my cute wiry whiskers came from, and now we think it might have been from the Irish Terrier or the Jack Russell.  I wish I could be as big and tall as an Irish Terrier, but I'm not.  You can read more about the breed in this blog by going here.

Parson Russell Terrier
Jack Russell terriers are actually supposed to be called Parson Russell Terriers.  They are another breed that has only recently been recognized by the AKC.  Jack Russells are very, very energetic.  They are smart and learn fast, so they are often used in movies or TV shows.

Okay, that brings us to the otterhound, which is really and truly a way bigger dog than I am.  Also it doesn't look at bit like me -- although it's hard to tell exactly what it looks like under all that hair. Otterhounds were used in England as pack hounds to trail and kill otters.  People thought the otters were pests because they ate the trout and salmon that people wanted to fish for themselves.  Mom says this is sad because she has watched the otters playing at the zoo, and they are very cute.  Luckily, people don't hunt otters much anymore, so otterhounds are mostly kept as pets.  I'm not sure what genes I inherited from the otterhound.  I don't think I would like to go hunting in deep water, that's for sure!

Lots of people haven't heard of a Jindo, and that's because it is not a very common breed in this country.  Jindo dogs come from the Jindo Island in Korea.  They look quite a bit like the Shiba Inu or the Akita.  They are hunting dogs, and they have been used to hunt everything from rodents to deer.  A Jindo has a strong will and independent mind, just like me!

English Toy Spaniel
The English Toy Spaniel is probably the smallest breed that shows up in my ancestry, but it is still bigger than I am.  This type of dog has a square body, round-shaped head, and a short muzzle.  I have these things, too, but my muzzle isn't as pushed in as the English toy spaniel's is.  This breed is energetic, happy, and playful.  It is also usually well-behaved, which is a gene that Mom says I did not inherit!

Adorable little not-a-chihuahua me!
Another thing this DNA test thing did was to check on genes that are related to health issues.  Like poodles, for example can get stuff such as progressive retinal atrophy, heart disease, diabetes, and epilepsy.  The Jindo breed is prone to hypothyroidism.  But I tested negative for the genes that cause these problems, so Dr. V said I was not a "carrier."  This means I could sire puppies, and I wouldn't give any bad genes to them.  Of course, I can't sire any puppies because, well, you know.

So that's it.  That's the real me, deep down inside, where my DNA lives.  I kind of wish that I had a little bulldog or great dane in me, but I guess you can't have everything!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I AM LATIFA! by Latifa, the cat

Dorrie doesn't write about us cats often enough, and she especially doesn't write about ME as much as she should.  I believe the fact is that Dorrie is jealous because I am Mom's favorite.  I know this because Mom has told me in secret, but secrets are meant to be shared, in my opinion.  So I will just tell you flat out that I am Mom's favorite cat, and if I were a dog -- which would be a fate pretty much worse than death -- I would be her favorite dog, too!

This is one of the best viewpoints in the house -- on top the fridge.
The fact is that Mom is my favorite, too, and I basically have no use for any cat or dog in the house.  I never snuggle with anybody except for Mom.  When the other four cats are all hanging out on the bed in the cat room, you will never find me hanging out with them.  I am always in another room, sleeping in another bed.

There's a lot of competition for Mom's lap, but I try to get there first, if I can!
Piper talked about me some when I first came here.  I had four kittens, but two had already been adopted.  So I came here with my two little tabby girls.  Pretty soon, they got adopted together and went to a home where there were twin boys.  After that, I got spayed, which was fine with me because I would rather do lots of other things besides nurse a bunch of mewling kittens.

Even though I have no use for kittens, Mom let me inspect this
scratching thing she bought for our fosters.
The reason I ended up in a foster home was that my previous mom couldn't afford to keep me anymore.  We were living in her car, which wasn't too much fun, even though she loved me.  She found homes for two of my kittens, and then she took me and the other two to the Humane Society.  Now I have a new mom, but at first she was just my foster mom.  Then we found out that I had hip dysplasia, and she decided to go ahead and adopt me herself.  I'm glad of that, even though I have to put up with all the other idiot cats and dogs here.  And so far, my hips have never given me any trouble.  I can jump up on all sorts of really high places.

This is where I sit while Mom takes a shower.
Someone has to make sure she doesn't drown, and I take my duty seriously!
My name, Latifa, means "gentle, kind, and pleasant" in Arabic and in Swahili.  The other cats laugh when I tell them that, but I have usually been gentle and kind with Mom -- although also a little pushy sometimes, too.  For instance, Mom never allowed cats to get on the kitchen counter or on the dining table before, but through sheer persistence, I wore her down.  I have even been known to steal a bite of food off Mom's plate when she was busy reading and wasn't paying attention.  I especially like anything with tuna, chicken, cheese, or eggs in it.

If I can't sit in Mom's lap, the next best places to keep warm
are in front of the space heater or on the hearth.
I only weigh five pounds, and that makes me the smallest cat in the house.  It even makes me smaller than Dorrie and Marius, but about the same size as Tristan.  I am sleek and black and beautiful.  I have an excellent way of purring that Mom really loves.  Part of my purr is just a regular catlike purr -- but pretty loud -- and then I also add an extra layer of higher-pitched whirring, almost chirping sounds.  None of the other cats here can purr like that, although Valeria, the foster cat we had here for a while, could do it.  I'm glad she's gone now!

If Mom sleeps too late, I find it useful to walk back and forth across her chest.
My very favorite thing to do is snuggle with Mom in bed at night.  She usually starts out sleeping on her back, and I cuddle into the crook of her right arm.  Later, when she turns over on her side, I sleep in the curve of her body, which is the most fabulous place of all to sleep.  When I first get in bed with Mom -- after the dogs have gone under the covers to sleep on her left side -- I do my special purring, and Mom pets me and rubs my ears and my belly and all over.  I roll around in a kind of ecstasy, purring and purring.  It's really a beautiful thing.  If Mom stops petting me too soon, I sometimes have to head-butt her hand or tap her face with my dainty black paw to get her started again.

Here I am eating my food on the kitchen counter.
That annoying little dog, Marius is eating his meal in the background.
I don't like the dogs, especially Tristan and Marius.  Dorrie is okay because she doesn't chase cats or bark at us.  But the boy dogs are mean.  They chase us and bark, and frankly, I stay away from them, if I can.  Anderson is afraid of the dogs, too, and so is Jason.  Getting to eat our meals is kind of a problem.  I have stopped even trying to go upstairs to the cat room to eat.  And anyway, I don't want to eat with those other dumb cats.  So Mom just puts some food on the counter for me to eat.  Sometimes I eat it and sometimes I don't.  Or sometimes Anderson eats it because he doesn't want to run upstairs with the dogs chasing him.  Usually, I get enough food to satisfy me, but there are times when I eat really fast, and then I puke my food right back up.

The basement is one of the best places ever to explore.
It is full of intriguing cobwebs, and sometimes you can even find a mouse!
Anyway, I'd say my life here is a happy one.  It would be better if I could have Mom all to myself, but I guess that will never happen, so I try to be content with what I have.

The top of the chest of drawers in Mom's bedroom is another
good vantage point.  Trust me, I know them all!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


One time Mom was at Petsmart, where the DivaPets group was trying to get some kitties adopted, and she was shocked to see a woman walking through the store, leading a horse.  This was not a big horse.  It was what you call a miniature horse, and it was really about the same size as a Great Dane, which is a kind of dog Mom sees all the time at Petsmart.  I wish I had been there to see the horse walking around in the store, because I think that would have been pretty cool.
How small does a horse have to be before it is "miniature"?  Well, it has to be 34"--38" or less in height.  The measurement is taken at the withers, which is defined as the last hair of the mane.  This means that a miniature horse is about the size of a very small pony, but there's a difference.  Miniature horses have to have the well-balanced proportions of a regular-sized horse.  If you see a picture of a mini, and there is no size reference, you should not be able to tell that it is a miniature.
In Europe, where miniature horses were first developed in the 1600s, they often served as pets for nobility.  However, the horses also worked in coal mines, just like ponies did.  The small horses
were first brought to the U.S. in the 19th century, mainly for use in Appalachian coal mines.  They were bred with Shetland Ponies, as well as with English and Dutch mine horses.

Gradually, the public became aware of miniature horses, and by the 1960s, minis began appearing in a number of equestrian competitions, and as companion animals.  In 1972, the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) was established as a division of the Shetland Pony Club.  Six years later, the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) was founded, establishing the miniature horse as a distinct breed.

Miniature horses can have any coat color, eye color, and any type of white markings.  They are intelligent, eager, and friendly, and they should not be skittish.  On average, miniatures live longer than full-sized horses.  It's easy for people to overfeed them if they are not used to having smaller horses  So obesity is somewhat common, but of course it's not good for the horses.  Minis can also have dental problems caused by overcrowding of teeth, and by underbites and overbites.  This is true of chihuahuas, too, so I can empathize!

Wikipedia -- agriflanders - DSC_6049
There are many types of competitions that you can enter with your miniature horse.  These include conformation, in-hand hunter and jumper, driving, costume, obstacle (sort of like agility for horses), and showmanship.

This little horse named Koda had such bad dwarfism that he required
several surgeries on his legs and mouth. 
Some miniature horses are born with the condition of dwarfism, which tends to cause lots of health problems.  Dwarf horses can set records for their small size, but their poor conformation and their health issues mean that the AMHA and AMHR avoid registering them.

Right now, the world's smallest horse is Thumbelina, who is only 17 inches tall and weighs 60 pounds.  She has gotten a lot of publicity, but her owners say they will not breed her because of her dwarfism.

Einstein weighed 6 pounds at birth, and was 14" tall
In 2010, a mini horse foal named Einstein was born weighing just 6 pounds.  He has challenged Thumbelina for the title of World's Smallest Horse because people think there should be a separate category for the smallest non-dwarf horse.

Guide Horse Scout in the Cincinnati Airport
Many service horses wear fabric shoes for traction on slick floors.
Also, real horseshoes would set off metal detectors.
Photo:  DanDee Shots; Wikipedia

Miniature horses can learn to be assistance animals, just like dogs can.  I'm sure dogs can do it better, but it is still impressive that horses can be trained to do such things.  One example of what a mini horse can do is to be a guide for a blind person.  Some people think horses shouldn't be used in this way because they are prey animals and can get spooked more easily than dogs can.  Plus they have to be stabled outdoors to maintain their health.  But other people say that horses are great to use with blind people because they live longer than dogs.  Also, they are good choices for people who are allergic to dogs, or for Muslims, who think of dogs as unclean.
There are some legal issues, too, because horses are not always accepted to go everywhere that guide dogs do.  Plus sometimes it is just difficult for a horse to physically do some things such as lie on the seat of a taxicab or stay for very long in a hotel room.

It's easier to use miniature horses as therapy animals.  They can make visits to hospitals and nursing homes, just like dogs can, and children are often less afraid of a mini horse than of a full-sized one.
Anyway, I told Mom that we really, really should get a mini horse because they are so cute.  I could even ride it because the little horses can carry up to 70 pounds.  In fact, we might be able to get all three dogs and most of the cats on the horse without overloading it.  Also, I learned that even though miniature horses are supposed to have some time outdoors every day, if you leave them indoors at night, they will get in bed with you to sleep, just like a dog or cat would.  And what could be nicer than snuggling up to a little horse on a cold night?