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Goats & Their Protector
updated: Jan 19, 2013, 11:00 AM

By the Urban Hikers (Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann)

Last week we took you on a tour of the Bliss estate known as Casa Dorinda, now operating as as senior living community. We also promised to tell you more this week about the history of the estate and the many people whose lives were intertwined with it. But, alas we are still in the process of discovering information and possibly old photographs for our story. So, we're switching gears a bit and will share with you what we've learned about the herd of goats that regularly clear parts of the property of its "fire fuel" in order to help minimize the dangers a fire on the property would present.

These photos were taken in August of 2011, during a visit to Casa Dorinda. The guardian dog, referred to as a "predator control dog" looks so sweet and unassuming with his/her herd of goats. But watch out if you get too close, and the dog feels threatened. Nice no more!

Brush Goats 4 Hire is a locally owned company that provided the goats and their guardian to Casa Dorinda. You may have seen the goats and dog(s) around SB at other locations clearing brush. They've been used on the hillside at the County Bowl, on TV Hill, Skofield Park and other places where the terrain is steep and ravines are many. The goats, a hybrid of Boer, Kiko, La Mancha and other Spanish breeds are voracious eaters with nimble hooves. A herd of 300 goats can devour an acre of brush and weeds each day, and will eat just about anything within its reach - including poison oak, blackberry brambles, vinca, pampas grass and and ivy.

The dogs used by Brush Goats 4 hire are the same breed of dogs who have been used for centuries throughout Europe and Africa as "LGD's" or livestock guard dogs. According to the company's website, the dogs are Anatolian Shepherd, Akbash and Great Pyrenees. The Anatolians "look like labs on steroids". We did a bit of research on these amazing dogs and this is what we found.

The breed, now commonly referred to as Anatolian Shepherd, was the Western name given to them in 1973, and named for the region in Turkey where they have been used for over 2,000 years. Used by nomads, they served as both companion to the shepherd and protectors of the herd or flock. Prior to being called Anatolian Shepard, they were called Coban Kopegi, which is Turkish for "shepherd dog".

Great Pyrenees have been used by shepherd in the Basque region of France and Spain for as long as 3,000 years, protecting goats and other livestock from predators, including wolves. In Namibia and Southwest Africa, Anatolians are used by shepherds to protect their flocks and herds from attacks by cheetahs.

The Anatolian shown protecting this herd of goats works 24/7 alongside the goats. The dogs are "trained" by placing them with their herd as very young puppies. They are naturally "imprinted" by the goats, most likely through olfactory influences, and the goats become their family. Generally the Anatolian can and will protect sheep, cattle and goats, but is used only with the livestock breed with which it was imprinted. Both males and females make excellent protectors, and both genders grow to be very large - usually over 100 lbs and up to 120 lbs. Since ancient times they have been bread to be trustworthy, attentive and protective, and will fight to the death if necessary. Often, however, even a predator who could take on one of these dogs, will sense the dog's fierceness and go elsewhere for its prey. Anatolian Shepherds are said to be capable of defending a herd or flock against coyote, bobcats, bear, mountain lions, domesticated dogs and unarmed humans. We can certainly confirm that we understood that protector dog's language loud and clear, and had absolutley no intension of messing with his or her family.

Be sure to stay turned for next week's story - Episode II of Montecito's Downton Abbey, in which we promise to fill you in on Casa Dorinda's history; it includes spectacularly wealthy residents, a staff of 40+, opulent parties, prominent guests, (including royal visitors) patriotic use during the war effort, "interfamily" marriage, intrigue, financial despair and more...

As always, we encourage you to go out and explore the neighborhoods, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all expect the unexpected.


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