Wild and woolly
Sheep. Everywhere I looked, from the outskirts of Tehran to the most remote mountain valley, there had been flocks of sheep. A few dozen hairy, pied, wild-looking beasts tended by a picturesque shepherd and his wolf-like dogs.
But we never stopped in photo range. There were moving dots in the distance, and blurred shapes from a moving bus, but never, never, never a good chance to get up close.
Sure, in the cave-village of Kandovan, we saw a couple of men leading a ram down the street. Later, as we lounged on divans at a teahouse beside a little stream, we heard bleats and moans from outside.
The tour leader, puffing on his pipe in the fresh air, stuck his head in. “Do you know, they’ve just cut a sheep’s throat and let it bleed out into the creek!”
Meat has to come from somewhere, I guess.
But that photo was about as good as it got.
The Persian perspective
This year, we spent two weeks and the situation was no better. The occasional shot through a bus window. I had pretty much given up hope.
We stopped in Behistun to look at some rock carvings. An inscription a hundred metres up a cliff face, showing Darius the Great subduing some incautious rebels.
Apart from being in a place where only birds could read the characters, there was a scaffold beneath, and photography unsatisfying. The story of my life, I guess.
I walked back to the bus, ignoring the usual tourist stalls of trinkets and snacks. There were picnickers lunching and children running around, but there was a gloom on my head. Three weeks in Persia and no sheep pictures!
And then I saw them. From out of nowhere, a herd of wild and woolly sheep.
I was back out on the grass in a flash. I positioned myself in their path, thinking that while they might scamper away if I approached them, if instead I stood still amongst the trees, they would ignore me snapping away.
This shepherd looked rather more dapper than usual. It struck me that perhaps, like the Scottish tourist attractions that just happen to have a Highland cow or two grazing in a field by the cafe, this was not a random herd of sheep, but I was asking no questions. Just taking the best shots I could of the approaching herd.
Suitably shaggy sheep, a world away from the white cotton puffballs of the Antipodes. Perhaps they were goats. Hard to tell really.
I took about a million shots but, you know, there’s only so many photos you can appreciate before the excitement dries up, so it’s just the highlights here.
There was one ram, looking even wilder and woollier than the rest. Like Godzilla, it reared up to take a bite out of a tree and I began to wonder whether my strategy of being one with the forest was appropriate.
This explained the uniform level of the foliage. The sheep looked a bit odd. Some – maybe all, I didn’t look – had prominent udders, but the really strange ones had big wobbly bums. Maybe a few camel genes had crept into the herd or something. Just kidding.
The leading sheep were approaching me now, grazing their way up to where I stood silently amongst the trees. I was able to look directly into their eyes, and they were able to size me up.
I began to regret wearing my green shirt and tan trousers today. This could easily turn awkward. I’m not usually worried about being eaten by a flock of sheep, but you never know with animals in foreign parts. In Australia, we don’t have large and dangerous creatures. Remember, as well as being woolly, these sheep were wild.
I thought I would leave, but these sheep eat leaves – and possibly wood – so I stood my ground, fending the brutes off with my camera.
Well, that was one box ticked. Weird, wild, and woolly sheep in their natural surroundings. As they had been for thousands of years. Ever since they had been domesticated, which had likely happened in these parts, more or less.
I was a little sorry that the shepherd wasn’t scruffier and accompanied by wolves. I might have stood a better chance of being eaten, I guess.
Oh well, can’t have everything.