When domestic animals take the key to the fields

By Florence Rosier

Posted on October 25, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. – Updated on October 26, 2021 at 5:07 a.m.

“They were, it seems, independent goats, wanting the great outdoors and freedom at all costs. ” This thirst for autonomy which, one fine day, seized domesticated goats, Alphonse Daudet made a famous tale of it, Mr. Seguin’s goat (Letters of my mill, 1869). Flee the sheepfold and the stale grass of the enclosure! Wandering through woods, meadows and scrubland! Frolic in the heather, feast on fragrant flowers! This emancipatory spirit is still relevant today. « Goats, they need the open sea. “ Evidenced by a very real contemporary fable.

The story takes place in the Haut-Languedoc Regional Natural Park, in the town of Montredon-Labessonnié – 2,000 inhabitants, 11,000 hectares lined with forests, pastures, fields of corn and sunflowers – about thirty kilometers away. from Albi (Tarn). A deep green bathes the countryside, painted in the water of a rainy summer. After an isolated farm, we move towards the gorges of the Agout, in a countryside of bocage which slopes gently.

Suddenly we stop. « Here they are ! “ Hiding in the shade of an embankment of oaks and chestnut trees, the rebels ruminate in silence. Nonchalant and sated. They are full of fat grass and fragrant clover, hawthorn leaves – which they love, despite the thorns – holly bark and cereals, mown in some neighboring field. The shiny hair, the bulging paunch, they are of insolent health. These agile ruminants, capable of climbing trees and sneaking into the bushes, have an ideal refuge there. A goat’s paradise.

A group of wild goats and billy goats in a meadow, near Montredon-Labessonnié (Tarn), August 3, 2021.

With their legs soaked in black, dozens of females stroll along, flanked by a pair of kids. Carrying the goat, the majestic horns, a few males keep watch. As we approach, the herd retreats. The animals emit funny hissings, “Like a warning cry from a wild animal”, observes Mathieu Pujol, wildlife photographer.

Where does this wild herd come from? “Five to eight years ago, around 15 alpine goats escaped from a farm. Since then, they have proliferated and are around a hundred “, sighs the mayor, Jean-Paul Chamayou. An unverifiable hypothesis, the breeder concerned being resistant to the electronic marking of his animals, however compulsory.

Goats, dogs, cats, horses, pigs…: all domesticated species, one day or another, can return to the wild. A phenomenon called “feralization” – from Latin will, “Wild beast”. Runaway animals are said to be “feral”. No longer really domestic. But not totally wild.

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When domestic animals take the key to the fields