There is no good reason why I should be writing about goats, except that last weekend there was a picture in our newspaper of three little boys in Tenerife trying to drag a large goat into a river. The captioned explained that this photo was taken at a yearly festival called “The Bathing of the Goats.”
My reading came to a dead stop while I scrutinized the picture. What on earth was this all about, I wondered. I’ve heard of the of the Blessing of the Animals, and one day many years ago on Olvera Street in Los Angeles I even saw a procession of animals being led past a priest who appeared to be baptizing (but in actuality was blessing) each animal. Not being Catholic, I was fascinated by such a ritual – first because of the diversity of animals anticipating this blessing, and secondly that seemingly ordinary people were involved in shepharding their animals through the line.
As an aside, I must mention that when an hour or so earlier Jerry and I had been having lunch at a nearby outdoor café, we noticed an elderly lady seated across from us who had a brown paper bag with the eyes, ears, nose and collar with ID tags drawn on it. This brown paper bag had its own chair across from the lady. I won’t tell you what my reaction was, but when I saw her and the paper dog waiting in line for a blessing, I realized the bag represented a once-live dog who had already gone to his or her reward. Apparently the owner was anticipating a posthumous blessing delivered to the bag.
But back to goats. The photo didn’t elaborate on what was going on, but since I don’t like to leave unknown things rattling around in my brain, I subsequently learned what was going on. I found it stranger than the blessing of the animals. The following is from the website, “Real Tenerife”:
At first light the action moves to the town’s harbour as it becomes the goat’s turn to enjoy the benefits of the enchanted waters. The clocks of time are turned back as goatherds from the Orotava Valley drive herds from their hillside pastures through Puerto’s streets, filling the harbour’s pebble beach with bemused and slightly anxious looking goats. Goats and water are not compatible bedfellows so the air is soon filled with tortuous cries as each indignantly protesting creature is dragged into the water and dunked, before being released to make its solitary journey back to its nervous looking mates.
Watching herdsmen, and women, methodically work through their livestock, it’s apparent that they truly believe that this ritual will benefit their animals; whether anyone actually considers the water enchanted, who knows, but veteran goatherds claim that the bathing of the goats results in increased fertility amongst female goats, improving their chances of falling pregnant and ensuring the continued growth of the herd. The bigger the herd, the more prosperous the owner; there’s method in this midsummer madness.
It seems to be more a cultural ritual than anything linked to a religious ideology. It has longstanding roots. I am sure it is satisfying to the resident population, but I personally think it is just weird! Poor longsuffering goats, I say.
But while reading this explanation I recalled a very funny video I saw on YouTube and, in fact, blogged about several years ago. It seems there is a breed of goats that when startled or excited exhibit a peculiar reflex of falling over sideways. The owners of this breed of goats say the reaction is not in the brain but rather is a strange condition that causes their legs to immediately stiffen to the point they are unable to walk or to stablilize themselves. The result is that they splat on the ground sideways. In a few seconds the spasm stops and they scramble to their feet as if nothing had happened. It’s not an illness; it’s just the way these goats are. And while they don’t lose consciousness, they do look as if they fainted, thus are called “Fainting goats.”
Take a look at the Video.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we9_CdNPuJg
I couldn’t help but have a good chuckle imagining these fainting goats being taken down to the ocean to be washed and at the first splash seeing them keel over in a faint. To be really funny the shepherds would have to be unfamiliar with this particular breed!I don’t know why I am so enchanted by goats. We have several goat farms in our quasi-rural area, bred mainly for carne de cabra fresca. When we first moved here Jer and I were speculating on the reason for all the goats, and with our big-city backgrounds we assumed the owners were selling the goat milk and/or making goat cheese for the markets. The nearest goat farm to us – maybe a couple of miles away – was fairly small, and some of the goats were kept in the front yard. There were “toys” for them to play on, and even the babies weren’t shy about jumping up on the roofs of what looked like big dog-houses and standing there to watch the cars go by. All the momma goats were pregnant; the babies were simply adorable. Then one day Jerry saw the owner in the front yard and he stopped to find out more about those funny looking little critters. That’s when he learned they were being raised for eating, not milking.
I refuse to drive along that route any more. I just can’t bear looking at those little guys, knowing what’s in store for them at the end of the day or the next day. As I have always thought, it wouldn’t take very much for me to become a vegetarian.
To me, goats are just funny animals, cute in their own way! They have always seemed as if they didn’t quite get fully formed – either physically or mentally - when they were in the design process. They all have beards, even the she-goats. And they are, IMHO, kooky looking….about on par with the Affenpinscher dog whose face looks like his tail got stuck in an electrical outlet and made him look fairly electrified!
Now in case you think you might want to know a little more about goats, I’m sending you to a list of 100 things you should know about them. You’d be surprised how much there is to ponder.http://www.famu.edu/cesta/main/assets/File/coop_extension/small%20ruminant/goat%20pubs/Facts%20About%20Goats.pdf