Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Tag: dogs

A Predator Problem We Don’t Have In The South

I’ve mentioned previously that we work with Bible missionaries stationed in Sierra Leone, West Africa. We received these photos this afternoon. They were taken last night when they found this five foot long cobra in their chicken coop.


As much as I don’t like having to deal with raccoons and possums and the occasional fox, I’ll take them any day over having to deal with cobras.

Here is what happened in the words of Mrs. Laura Holt, who took these photos:

Last night around 9:00, Stephen and I were enjoying the cool evening air on the veranda when I heard a ripple of distress pass through the chickens. I know the voice of my flock and was certain I knew what the problem was. Stephen and I grabbed flash lights and sure enough, there it was – a five-foot cobra! In recent months we have lost 4 hens to snake bites so we didn’t want to let this one get away.

While I ran to get two shovels, a machete and the camera, Stephen was able to keep the beast fairly well corralled with the flash light – they hate light so he kept it going in circles by strategically shining the beam of light in its eyes. At one point it tried to climb a tree just outside the poultry yard but with no branches low enough it was unsuccessful though it did reach a height of about 5 feet. It finally curled into a tight ball at the base of the tree.

While holding the flash light in his mouth Stephen dealt a hard blow to the back of the beast with the shovel. Despite its serious wound it still had strength enough to climb the gate to the chicken yard all the while spitting venom and emitting a low but evil sounding hiss and a growl-like sound; very creepy. Stephen then pinned it to the gate with the two shovels but it managed to slip out and went to the ground. With the snake thus weakened he then took the machete and severed its head.

All the while Mercy was a valiant assistant. At one point he did bite the snake though we tried to keep him back as best we could. But his maneuvers were a helpful distraction to the snake so Stephen was able to get a very clear shot at the base of the head. Mercy hates snakes and has a natural sense that they need to die. He has killed a few but they were not poisonous. He even has a special bark he uses only when a snake is present and I always take that alert seriously. I dread the day when he tries to face one of these deadly foes on his own. When I was doing my morning chores today I found one hen who had fallen victim to the snake.

Dogs and Chickens

There are some photos that are just too good to not share. Below is a photo sent to us by our friends, who are Bible missionaries in Sierra Leone, West Africa. They have two Australian Shepherds named Goodness and Mercy. I’ll let Mrs. Holt tell the story in her own words:

The attached picture is Mercy as he plays baby sitter to our 200 chicks. They just love him and he is so gentle with them. He helps herd them into the coop at night. Then, upon the command to “check” he criss-crosses the fenced yard looking for any strays. He does an excellent job. He is very protective of them and recently killed a cat (his fifth) that was trying to get into the coop at night. The chicks will begin producing eggs by November or December which will be sold to the company.

“The company” she mentions is the gold mining company (run by Europeans) in the town they are near. A good farm dog is invaluable anywhere, but in a place like the African bush where hostile creatures – both two legged and four legged – abound, a good farm dog can literally be a life-saver. Their dogs have alerted them to a cobra trying to get into the house via a drain pipe, barked to alert them of a brush fire approaching their house, chased or killed several rabid dogs, and defended them against hostile natives trying to do them harm.

Photo by Laura Jean Holt
Sierra Leone, West Africa

Farm Dogs

Few things represent the rural agrarian life more than the farm dog. In addition to the companionship that dogs provide, the farm dog really earns his keep. With only one acre, we hardly qualify as living on a farm, yet our dog still has his job and he does it well.

Shiloh is our Shetland Sheepdog (also known as a Sheltie). At 35 pounds, he is a good bit larger than the standards call for, which is why he lost his value as a stud dog and we were able to get him. When pests invade the garden, Shiloh chases them away. An unusual pest for most folks but not uncommon for us is wild peacocks that sometimes get into the garden until Shiloh chases them away. Another job that Shiloh does well is catching chickens that fly over their fence and get into the garden. It’s almost as much fun watching that as it is watching a Border Collie working sheep. He chases the chicken and tries to corner it. The chicken will eventually give up and stop and he just stands over it to keep it from leaving. He never tries to bite or harm the chicken in any way. If we aren’t out there at the time, he will bark to let us know that he needs help. I walk over and pick up the chicken and put it back over the fence. The chickens are usually quite happy to see me after dealing with the dog.

Shiloh as a young puppy, holding a chicken