Wild Living With Livestock

Donkey

        When traveling through the Wild West of Ireland, one probably expects to see sheep, it’s true – but did you know that sheep are known to cause “traffic jams”? Or that they come in an array of colors not unlike a living, breathing rainbow? How about the cows of the Irish countryside, and of course, the beloved donkeys?

 

[Traffic Jam!]

        One of the memories that has stuck with me about my first trip over to Ireland was on the road with Wild West Irish Tours’ CEO, Michael Waugh – we swung around one of those narrow, muddy corners of a rustic road and came bumper to bumper with a cow’s rump. She; the gentle caramel goliath, turned to lumber her way across the road, but seemed to pause and regard Michael [who, unlike me (quite certain we’d just grievously offended the Bessie in question) was absolutely calm] with warm intrigue. Then she hustled on, off to whatever business she had to attend to in some other field.

        Actually, come to think of it, my first truly cognizant memory of Ireland [post-groggy plane and dozy minibus ride to the Heart of the Wild West] was taking a walk with my new friend, fellow Wild Westie [a nickname for folks on our tours] Deborah, down the country road from the B&B we were lodged in. We had the privilege of saying hello to two cows the color of cinnamon, and it was as great a moment as it was simplistic – the peaceful regard of watchful brown eyes peering out of the trees at us, unbothered by all things. Nodding hello as they relished their mouthfuls of grass.

 

[Local ladies coming to say hello.]

        The softness and quietness of cows echoes the more maternal feeling of the landscape, in a way – there is something so absolutely soothing about the presence of cattle, it’s easy to see why certain cows [white ones with red ears] are tied to the Celtic goddess Brigid, Imbolc, and a sense of healing.

        There’s also sense of love and freedom intertwined with what folks might consider “farm animals” in the Wild West of Ireland. It’s fascinating to consider that sheep are given relatively free range to roam the hills, some all the way up the side of Ben Bulben – dots of snow circle the greenery year-round and give an air of heaven on earth: clouds captured by the explosion of emerald tapestry across the countryside.

 

[Living dots of snow…]

        The sheep kind of encourage visitors to slow down and take a look around – there’s no schedule with sheep other than what the farmers keep [and they always know where their sheep are]. They meander over paths and bound through the grass, their marks of harmless color flashing in the thickets. In some ways, they mirror a journey on the Wild West of Ireland – they travel with purpose but aren’t afraid to take roads less traveled and unexpected maneuvers.

 

[Eppie the friendly four-legged greeter.]

        Donkeys meanwhile have been a staple in the Irish countryside since the 1800’s at least – lovable, spunky helpers for farm work like clearing fields and pulling carts.

Visitors to the Wild West of Ireland are probably in the company of one of the best donkeys Ireland has to offer – Eppie, whose presence is one of gentleness, cheekiness, and steadfastness. Certain places we go, especially in the Heart of the Wild West, have plenty of other donkeys to meet and greet as well – who are all too eager to be loved on by visitors [and maybe fed a treat or two].

Perhaps one of the best aspects of journeying to the Wild West of Ireland is the deep connection with nature that resides there. This is just dipping a toe into the concept; with how intrinsically livestock is woven into their environment. But I think overall there is a certain level of respectful coexistence that occurs that is special; unique to Ireland’s Wild West.

 

[A Wild Westie makes a friend.]

        Come away to make your own memories of life among livestock – feed crust to a donkey; listen to the bleating choir of sheep through the dales accompanied by a symphony of melodic cow bells –

        And as always, expect great things in simple places.

Until next time, be well!

Sam Fishkind
Wild West Irish Tours
Scribe

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