top of page

The Amazing Love and Compassion in Livestock

I originally wrote this blog while we were having health issues with Jasper unbeknownst to us at the time. We were trying to get a vet farm visit set up and doing what we could to determine what was wrong with him. Sadly, on July 8th we tragically lost him to a ruptured cecum. We miss him so much.

This morning while I was out feeding my critters and loving on them, I noticed Jasper was facing my son’s house. I called out for him and he turned and walked towards me. Then he went down. My first thought was he got tripped on something or caught up in something.

I started walking faster calling out to him. He wasn’t getting up. My heart was racing. I was supposed to be leaving to get Louise’s eye antibiotic ointment but now that had to wait.

As I started picking up my pace Sugar sensed something was wrong and she raced to Jasper. She nudged him as to be asking are you okay my love. I frantically looked for something obvious and found nothing of concern.

I got him to his feet, and he started walking but not normal. By this time Thelma, Louise and Colt appeared and were nudging him as to ask if he was okay.

At that moment not only was I witnessing the most primal and amazing interaction between the equines. I was seeing the compassion and love from animals. Something I see often thanks to being a homesteader. But this morning touched me in a way I never imagined. I didn’t have my camera to capture that moment. I wish I had but that moment will be forever etched in my mind and heart.

I did make it to get Louise’s medicine from the chicken doctor. Got her taken care of and Jasper is doing fine. Sugar and I are watching him closely. Thankfully the rain came, and the temperature dropped. I don’t know what caused his little moment of complete terror for me, but I hope it was a one and done. The heat is getting to us all. Keeping everyone alive, hydrated and well is a full-time job.

I am still in awe and have shed a few tears from this morning. Some from the fear we were going to lose Jasper. The rest from the way all my equines touched my heart this morning and showed me the compassion and love that animals have for one another and their handlers. The closeness I have with all my critters is indescribable. It’s so different than with house pets and so much more intense.

Since writing that as you know we did lose Jasper. It was a week leading up to what we thought was a bruised hip from a kick from Sugar to Colic/Ruptured Cecum. I checked on him at 4 am on the 8th and by 11 am he was gone. His loss has left me devastated and shaken. I thought I would share some things I have learned about these amazing animals that have come to live with us and teach us every day new things.

There was a very in-depth and interesting study into a wide range of cognition, emotion, and the behaviors of domestic chickens published in 2017. They found chickens are capable of displaying empathy, emotions to humans, and essentially “love” us. Chickens are capable of showing self-awareness and self-control. Capable of communicating with us in several ways. Able to learn and interpret complex social signals similar to how we do. Able to perceive and show complex positive and negative emotions. Capable of exhibiting emotional contagion and empathy towards us, and most interestingly the study noted that chickens have distinct personalities and are “behaviorally complex individuals”. Chicken owners know chickens are perfectly capable of learning their names and chickens can remember 100 faces. They can even remember negative experiences with humans and pass the information on to other chickens. When it comes to the capability of chickens’ emotions, it’s known that chickens experience friendship within the flock, experience grief at the loss of a fellow chicken, and chickens can even miss their owners. So chickens can get sad or exhibit behaviors that appear like loneliness or depression. I witnessed this on Saturday when our Woody passed away.

I looked on our security footage to see what happened to him. He was fine and running around and calling for Kelly. Then he just fell over and laid there for a few minutes and went into flapping his wings and kicking up dirt and then went lifeless. During all his wing flapping all the ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens came to check on him. They slowly surrounded him and watched as he flapped around and passed away. They stood around him nudging him for a long time. They felt the loss of their coop mate. It wasn’t long after they slowly one by one left his side then Thelma our donkey came to see what had happened. She stood there and watched him, nudged him and then walked away.

Donkeys are surprisingly affectionate. They seek out their trusted humans or other animals, whether to be petted or simply to stand nearby. Thelma, Louise and Colt will follow us everywhere, welcome us with their braying and give us kisses. They love their belly rubs and hugs. They can become quite close to dogs, horses, and other pasture pals, and ours have. Their fellow donkey friends are extraordinarily important to them. They form such strong bonds that when a companion dies, they mourn them. The stress of their grief can cause them to become severely ill. While Louise has been going through her issue with her eye, we have seen this bond. Now that she is confined to a pen while being treated to heal all the equines and our cow spend time at her gate. Sometimes they are all there visiting with her. They know she is alone, and they miss her.

Goats show love and affection not only to humans, but to other goats and other animals! When in little herds of two or more, goats display friendliness to each other in many ways, including body language, closeness, and vocalizations. Goats, like all mammals, can show a degree of empathy with one another. I love to watch the goats show each other love and when they give me love.

It is truly amazing to witness the love and compassion with all our farm animals. What they give to each other and to us is wonderful. When I am having a bad day, I go sit with any or all of them. They sense my mood and give me what I need by their rub, kiss, nudge or smile. Yes, they smile in their own way. As you spend time with them you learn their love language. They feel pain and loss just like we do. They comfort each other and us and it’s a magical thing to witness and be a part of. I have been blessed to be able to be a part of these moments. If only the world could take a lesson from these beautiful creatures. It would make this a better place for sure.

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page