Woolly jumpers: rabbits ride on sheep to stay dry in flood


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Woolly jumpers: rabbits ride on sheep to stay dry in flood” was written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 26th July 2017 03.01 UTC

A New Zealand farmer has a newfound respect for the ingenuity of rabbits after he photographed them riding on the backs of sheep to escape a flood.

Ferg Horne, from Mosgiel in the South Island, was checking on his neighbour’s sheep on Saturday morning after a near-record breaking flood tore through Otago, prompting evacuations and forcing authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Expecting the sheep to be drowned, Horne was relieved to discover the mob perched on a high spot of the paddock standing in about three inches of water.

And they weren’t the only animals who had acted fast to avoid a watery death. Perched on the sheep’s backs were three wild rabbits, drenched and shivering but alive.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, they were just sitting there keeping out of the water, they must have got to the high spot and then jumped up on to the back of the sheep to stay dry,” said Horne.

“It shows you how resilient they are and why they survive so well.”

Map of Mosgiel

Horne said the sheep weren’t “the slightest bit concerned” about the rabbits.

“When I moved the sheep the rabbits fell off, but they ran to a hedge and climbed into the branches. Later when I went back to check the rabbits were gone so they must have survived.”

Horne said he had spent 40 years shooting rabbits on his farm but couldn’t touch these particular specimens after they showed great “pluck” to escape the flood. Rabbits are a declared pest in New Zealand and the government has vowed to wipe them out by 2050.

“I thought those guys deserved to live, so I left them alone.”

Horne’s farm has since cleared of floodwater and the state of emergency has been lifted.

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