Percy and Sam – The Merinos

I have shared my life with many different pets and over the years, have reared hundreds of
orphaned lambs. Like everything, there are always those few that leave you with lasting
memories and were just that little bit more special. Percy and Sam were two Merino wethers
(desexed males) that fit this category.

Shearing in mid-winter is always fraught with anxiety – none more so that when the ewes come in heavily pregnant due to the rams “getting to the girls” too early. With the stress of shearing and cold, early births sometimes occur in the yards, the mother’s too confused or frightened to know what has happened – and they re-join the flock, leaving their newborn lambs on the ground. The year Percy and Sam were born was one of those years. When shearing was over, there were eight motherless lambs, so of course they were relocated to the house yard where a warm pen was prepared for them, and they began their lives with a bottle feed of artificial colostrum. From the beginning, Sam and Percy were the quiet lambs, the ones who loved nothing more than to lie in our laps and skip around the yard with my children. As they grew up and returned to their role in the flock as wool-growers, they mostly ignored us, with the exception of Sam and Percy. Both boys knew my voice and I’m quite sure they also knew their names – I only had to call and they would come running out of the flock to greet me.

Percy had a comical way of galloping towards me, screeching to a halt at my feet (a little disconcerting at times when he outweighed me), and gently pushing his head between my knees, allowing me to scratch his velvety ears. Sam was always a little more aloof, however the bonus of both these sheep was that neither ever threatened my children (sometimes adult wethers and rams are inclined to show dominance by bunting or charging humans, particularly the young and vulnerable).

As the wool market fluctuated and droughts, floods and wild dog attacks came and went, our flock numbers varied, however Sam and Percy were always exempt. This was partially due to their good wool which continued to fetch a reasonable price each year, but mainly their longevity was due to their beautiful temperaments and quiet common sense.
Unlike many of their compatriots, they never tried to escape by crawling under fences or leaping over them, they were never rough or domineering and above all, they were the gentlemen who led the flock in into the yards in an orderly fashion when called. When the movie “Babe” was released in the 1990’s, we were tempted to rename them “Maa 1 and Maa 2”.

For most Australian bred merinos, reaching the age of ten is a challenge, however Sam and Percy’s lives extended way past that. At almost thirteen, Sam sadly developed facial cancer and not long after, passed away. Percy continued to enjoy a sedentary life in the flock for a further three years, and at the ripe old age of sixteen, came to the homestead fence and lay down, waiting for me at the gate.

I sat down beside him and he laid his head on my lap. We sat for an hour or so before he turned his head to look in my face. I swear he was thanking me. A few minutes later, he passed away, leaving the whole family with a deep sadness but wonderful memories and gratitude for having shared the life of such beautiful sheep.

1 Comment

  1. Craig says:

    A softer sadder tale here

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