And the four legs part of the show was very good! There were loads of sheep, and they were very friendly.
It was unseasonably hot, so many of them were very appreciative of a human hand to scratch all the hot itchy bits.
Lots of the sheep were breeds I know and see regularly, though what was particularly noticeable was how huge many of these sheep were. Even allowing for the fact that pedigree sheep are often at the top end of the size for a given breed, I have never seen so many giants! The back of this Polled Dorest was nearly up to my waist.
And this Rambouillet was particularly impressive, though did highlight the only sad thing about all of these very well cared for sheep... the American standard for tail docking is extremely short.
Tail Docking is really important for the welfare of some breeds, without it there's a risk that the sheep gets poo all over it's bum, and then the flies move in, and the sheep is eaten by maggots. It's usually done with a rubber ring while the lamb is young, very quickly the blood supply is cut off, the tail goes numb, and drops off. Primitive breeds don't tend to be docked, it's more important that they have a tail to keep them warm in the winter, and they tend to spend the summer on the hills where the grass doesn't produce such a dramatic effect on the digestive system!
In the UK the standard for docking is that enough tail is left to cover the anus, and failure to do so would actually be penalised in the showing ring. In America the standard seems to be to remove the tail almost completely, leaving the fleshy parts exposed, which isn't great for the animal...
Apparently it makes the animal look like it has a squarer rump, but personally I'd rather see a proper tail.
Comparing some very familiar UK breeds with the US version was really interesting, some of the breeds on display had been bred using imported semen combined with a ewe from a similar breed, and with each successive generation the breed gets closer to the original breed. The Teeswater on display sort of looked like a Teeswater, but lacked the real ringlets we see on the UK version. It was lovely to meet some new breeds though. The Tunis were old pros at being at a show, and were very tame. Their fleece was wonderfully bouncey, like a very crimpy Shetland. I've also finally met a breed that's even rarer than the beautiful Boreray. The Santa Cruz Sheep were absolutely beautiful, just like the Boreray they'd been left to their own devices, shrunk in size, and grew the most stunningly beautiful fleece.
As wonderful as the sheep are the camelids completely stole the show...
We sat down for coffee on Sunday morning to watch the Leaping Llamas, which was fabulous. A whole procession of Llamas, Alpaca, and Angora Goats, all trying to jump over a horse jump. I suspect some of the animals were severely handicapped by their handlers!
Some of the animals demonstrated that they were far too clever to play any part in such nonsense...
Rhinebeck really was a fabulous experience. We were there the whole weekend, and needed every minute to see everything. It was the excuse to get me on the plane for a really good holiday... more photos of the rest of the trip to come! Unsurprisingly we found gin... more surprisingly was the Christmas bauble in the shape of a hamburger.