Earlier this summer I came in from the barn and told everyone, “I just saw the sweetest thing that I have ever seen on this farm!”
“I saw the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen yesterday!” my husband Steve said.
Magnum is the Mac Daddy
It is not unusual for a dam (momma alpaca) and cria to nibble and “kiss” at each others mouths. They nuzzle, touch noses, and love on each other. The males are kept in separate pens. They don’t usually interact with cria.
Magnum is housed in a run in the main barn between two pens of females. He can flirt with the girls in the next pen. He generally gets to breed with most of them when they are open so he holds court in the middle of the barn, and when everybody is bred he is the happy king of his castle. (He can tell when they are open and gets frisky to try to get to the girls to breed them.)
Magnum has a few offspring in the pens adjacent to his. We have seen him “talking” to his little sons over the fence, and we imagine him telling them about life, teaching them the ropes. But we have not been sure if he knew they are his offspring, or if he thought they were just cria, or if he thought he was such a stud that every cria was his!
Then we saw him with Molly. Molly is a Magnum daughter who is close to breeding age and size. She is big enough that Magnum would normally have figured out that she wasn’t pregnant, and would be orgling (alpaca mating noise designed to make the females weak in the knees) and jumping up on the panels that separated them. But he wasn’t doing this at all. He was kissing Molly. On the mouth. Sweet as a mother and new baby!
I first noticed it one morning as the alpacas were being brought into the barn. As soon as Molly came into her stall that adjoins Magnum, she went up to him and gave him a kiss. It was cute. But they stayed that way, just kissing on each other, nibbling, and touching noses. Before you think this is gross, let me tell you – this was NOT a sexual thing. I know our boy Magnum. He was NOT courting this girl. When he does that – it’s pretty obvious. He was gently loving her.
Freaking out at the extreme cuteness, I ran to get Jeremy, our farm manager, to borrow his phone to take pictures. “Oh yeah,” he said, “They were doing that yesterday.” Well they had stopped by the time I found a camera. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to capture the moment.
When Steve said that he had seen the same thing as well, I was determined to capture it. These photos were taken on my phone over a 10 minute time frame where Magnum was completely, totally in love with his little girl.
These moments were so intimate, and their affection so strong, that it was a privilege to be able to witness (and record) them. Magnum is one of the most intelligent animals I have ever had the joy of knowing. I don’t doubt anymore that he knows his offspring. If I can recognize the resemblance, I am certain he can as well. Perhaps there is some sort of biological thing happening as well that allows him to know his cria. Whatever it is, we are so blessed to have this incredibly complex and wonderful male be a part of our lives.
What have you seen animals do that surprised you? What displays of animal emotion have touched your life?