Tag: Animals

We’ve seen another bear

We’ve seen another bear

Driving through the Redwoods we saw our second Brown Bear of the gap year.

Such a thrill. Only five metres from our car.

Seemingly very shy, she stared inquisitively at us for a full five minutes before scampering back into the forest when a loggers’ truck roared up the road.

Black Bear sighting

Black Bear sighting

Along the roadside close to Jasper, we were lucky enough to see a black bear. Foraging in the rough ground, eating roots and grass, she must have been extremely hungry after the long, hard winter.

A number of cars drew up for a closer look. At one point the bear became quite curious and approached our car and also the car behind full of excited Koreans.

It is estimated there are some 400k black bears in Canada and that, despite hunting, the population is growing. In wilderness areas, their diet is about 95% vegetation and about 5% insects, mammals and birds. They are extremely dexterous; capable of taking tops off jars and breaking into cars with stored food.

Fort Worth – where the West begins

Fort Worth – where the West begins

Fort Wort became famous during the great open-range cattle drives of the 19th century, when more than 10 million Texas Longhorn cattle trampled through the city on the Chisholm Trail. With horns up to 2m long, the breed descended from cattle brought over by Christopher Columbus and have a high drought-stress tolerance.

The Stockyards in Fort Worth are where the action is today. Cowboys walk around in boots and almost everyone wears ‘stetsons’. There’s a Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum, original cattle pens where you get to see some of the Texan Longhorns and the rodeo in the evening.

At this we saw some wonderful cowboy skills: calf roping, barrel racing and bronco bull riding which was seriously dangerous for the cowboys. None stayed on for the full 8 seconds and several were seen limping off with what looked like broken limbs. We wondered why they do it, then learnt the top earner gets $2m income pa.

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Hilary rode a Texas Longhorn Bull – which looks a bit like a Milton Keynes (a town in England) concrete cow in this photo, but honestly it was alive and very sweet natured.
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The evening rodeo was staged in the historic Coliseum. It was a fun, family oriented event – mix of rodeo skills and children chasing animals around the arena. And an emotional parade of the Stars and Stripes.

Condors at risk

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One of the pair of Condors in their aviary at Parque Condor

In Chile and Argentina they flew magestically above our heads. In Ecuador they are close to extinction and we’ve only seen them in an aviary.

A study shows under 200 Andean Condors remain in Ecuador and a strong probability of extinction within 63 years; condors live up to 80 years. And shockingly in a country of such amazing landscapes the biggest threat is habitat loss; indeed we have noticed a housing sprawl up valleys and hillsides. To read more background click here

The aviary was at touristy Parque Condor where they are not allowed to fly their condors due to regulations. So we had to make do with a flight demonstration of eagles, owls and hawks.

A very bad business decision

dscf1574A little way out of Colonia we found the crumbling ruins of Plaza de Toros Real de San Carlos. Designed in a Moorish style, Uruguay’s only bullring could seat 10,000 spectators.

Officially opened on January 9, 1910, it was the business idea of Buenos Aires’ entrepreneurs looking to circumnavigate their country’s earlier banning of this disgusting ‘sport’. But Argentina’s elite were shipped across the Rio de la Plata for only eight bullfights before the Uruguay government in 1912 also put a stop to bullfighting.

The site is closed off today but that didn’t stop your intrepid bloggers getting under-the-wire. Standing in the centre of the arena we were reminded of Roman amphitheatres – and their similar bloodthirsty spectaculars.

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Riding through the savannah

img_9397Here we are riding out at the Don Emilio Estancia. Roger has the smaller horse as this was his first experience of riding. Hilary meanwhile has loved and ridden horses since she was 14.

Both horses are South American Criollos; descendents from the original horses brought over by the Spanish in the 16th century. The Spaniards brought the very best they had and this is still apparent down through the generations.

Let sleeping dogs lie

There are lots of stray dogs living on the streets of Argentina and Chile; mostly very content and adding to the colourful street life. They sleep anywhere they can during the hot summer days only occasionally adopting a backpacker, walking alongside them, in the hope of food.

As man’s oldest friend, it’s interesting how dogs (like cats and horses) assume different characteristics according to how each nationality treats them.

“Italian” dogs are used mostly to guard properties and “British” dogs are indulged as pets, whilst these dogs are left to live and let live, which maybe sums up the Argentinian and Chilean approach to life.

Italian cats

We’re cat lovers and have been intrigued by what might be cultural differences. Us British are a nation of animal lovers and give lots of character to their pets by talking to them and generally indulging them. We’re not sure the Italians do this in the same way…

Italian cats – mainly a predominance of tortoiseshell and tabbies – seem to be quite shy in general; the ones we meet on our travels are usually living outside and often run a mile when you approach them. They have very different expressions on their faces and their yowls are a lot louder.

Interestingly the cats of the two British families we’ve met living in Italy, seemed to have British characteristics rather than Italian. So this suggests it’s upbringing rather than genes.

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Interestingly, dogs here come across as very different from British dogs, since most of them are used as Guard dogs and kept chained up or behind fences and rarely exercised. The Italians seem paranoid about security and have several locks on each of their doors as well as the dogs!