exploring the relationship between people and animals

by Preston Gannaway, Monitor staff photographer

Concord Monitor
Concord, NH
26 November 2007

Concord Monitor Online - Photo columns - ANTHROZOOLOGY
November 26, 2007 PRESTON GANNAWAY / Monitor staff

Louis Holland, 33, leads the oxen across a field at D Acres, an organic farm and educational homestead in Dorchester. D Acres executive director Joshua Trought brought the oxen to the farm about four years ago. One goal of the farm is to limit its impact on the environment, including the consumption of fossil fuels. Henri (left) and August (right) are used in place of machinery for a variety of farm work like cart pulling and hauling logs through the woods. Holland talks about working with them.

If I didn't have confidence in myself, I wouldn't be able to work with them the way I do. (The oxen have) really allowed me to empower my life. They can sense somebody not being confident. It forced me to really take charge of my life and seek what I want to get done. 'Cause if I get stagnant, my confidence goes.

Your perception is everything with getting things done. It's understanding what they will do and trying to counteract their move. You have to jump up ahead of them and be very forceful with them to push them to the right direction. As soon as you start doubting yourself and doubting their ability, they sense that. They'll see me shrug my shoulders down and start huffing and puffing. Then it's hard for us just to get back in that rhythm again.

I've been here since February. (When I first started working with them) Henri would charge me a few times and I ran away and fell down, and he would step right up on me. For two weeks they would not listen to me at all. They would sense my fear. I had to just go towards them with a more positive, uplifting attitude so they sense that type of character in me. There's a lot of role-playing. If you don't really feel confident, you just better fake it.

Henri's really the pushy, bossy one. When they're yoked up, August will be lagging behind and Henri will be pulling forward just to antagonize August. It gets August motivated to jump up and do more.

Full moon time, I know Henri is gonna act up. I'll be going in the pen to go get them and he'll start trying to mount on top of August. Next thing you know, they're running around in circles and I'm in the middle of them. That's 4,000 pounds running around me and I'm like, geez, oh God (laughs). When I was 17, I was a veterinarian technician. I worked with some cattle. But not in this scale at all.

The other night I fell asleep at 5:30 (laughs). And I left them out in the pasture at night. And when I went and got them the next day, they were looking all confused like, "You left me out here last night! What are you doing?" Henri gets those big, dopey-looking eyes when he's looking at me. They're about dark as coal too, Henri's are.

Animals don't hold grudges as long as some people do.

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