Although I was born and raised in the city, living in the countryside - the Australian countryside in particular - has given me a deep insight into certain matters agricultural.
The main thing country life has taught me about is sex. Now, don't get excited because the sex I'm talking of concerns animals only, with no human involvement at all. (Well, not directly, anyway. Let's not go there.)
Since moving to a farming community, I've personally observed many moments of conception, birth and nurture of various beasts, including sheep, cattle, horses, donkeys, goats and Australasian Drop Bears, though I might have made that last one up.
It's been a real eye opener. And, on occasion, I have to say, a stomach opener, too.
Not unlike human birth, one of the first things a farmer asks - or to be honest, feels for - farmers tending to be fairly hands-on - is the new arrival's gender. There are specific reasons for this, not all of which is related to the continuation of the family line.
Once upon a time, in the human world, the words, 'it's a boy' used to be the prelude to the joyful handing around of the cigars - in some cultures presumably it still is - but farmers of sheep and cattle in particular would beg to differ.
A male animal usually means a whole heap of trouble, specialist individual treatment and most important of all, the provision of plenty of space. This is because male cattle and sheep - rams and bulls is the technical term I believe - incline toward somewhat aggressive habits; particularly toward other males and can only really peacefully exist if one or the other fellow has been subjected to what we pathetic human men still refer to as the unkindest cut of all.
Castration. 'Any action, surgical, chemical or otherwise by which a biological male loses use of the testes'. Even the thought of it induces the word 'ouch' in me, so I can only imagine what it must feel like.
Male animals, not to put it too bluntly - and you can take this any way you like, tend to be a bit of a pain in the arse. Unfortunately, for the farmer, even although the age of artificial insemination is well and truly coming - as it were - one dirty big bugger with fully functioning tackle still affixed is something of a necessary evil, but only if he duly does the job.
The job in this case being the production of a regular assembly line of tried and trusted, sellable, quality progeny.
And so, for the stallion, ram, bull or whatever in question, getting on the job is actually the job.
Yes, it sounds like the perfect life, but wait. Can you imagine the pressure? Forget those days - and we all have them - when you're just not in the mood and would rather be watching TV, round the bookies or hanging around in your y's just chilling.
Hard luck, buddy, this is your job, you're not supposed to be having fun. Get on your working bunnet and the overalls and get out there and procreate.
It wouldn't be all that much fun really. Most days, it'd be like, well, a job.
Female animals, on the other hand, are always welcomed by the farmer because they're much, much easier to handle - far less aggressive most of the time and, crucially don't require any surgery or specialist treatment to restrict their breeding potential.
For the males, unless he's one of the very chosen few, out comes the knife and those potentially troublesome orbs fade into distant memory. (And quite often provide a feast for the farmyard dog.)
Interestingly enough, neutered male sheep and cattle are said to taste far better when the time comes, a direct result so the accepted wisdom goes, of a docile, stress free lifestyle not constantly impeded by constant thoughts of wild passion - or whatever instinctive lustful yearnings your average farm animal possesses.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Spain where I took a tour of the Corrida Del Toro in the Madrid principality of Aranjuez.
The bullring where, I'm sure you're aware, most Sundays in summer, six young bulls are taunted, agitated and then, after some time, run through by the brave matador.
I'm not being facetious by the way, a matador is brave; facing down an enraged bull is definitely not the act of Cedric Soft - but on the other hand, as opposed to the beast which only has its horns and aggressive temperament on his side, El Torero does have the advantage of a team of people who systematically weaken the animal - and, of course, a razor sharp rapier.
Whilst a bullfight is, unquestionably bloody and merciless, (not to mention entirely one-sided, like the basketball team who used to play the Harlem Globetrotters, it never, ever wins), when you consider the inevitable fate of male animals generally: early castration or a life of constant sex, which as we've seen might not be all it's cracked up to be, maybe it's not all that bad.
Speaking personally, if it was a choice between a life lounging around a field, munching grass without the reassuring presence of my testicles prior to a short one way ride to the abattoir. Or possibly even worse, a life with them - but only because I was expected to perform on demand as and when, like some sort of animal porn star - but for no remuneration whatsoever, I might be tempted to take my (non-existent) chances with the matador.
I mean, whatever choice you make, the conclusion is basically the same. But at least in the bullring, you get to keep your nuts.
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