|I took this photo one winter's day by the side of a country highway. I had to pull off the road and wade through 2 feet of snow and a frozen drainage ditch to get this picture. I was lucky that the hayble appeared to be asleep, or possibly dormant. Luckily, I did not frighten it away.
Enemies of the domestic hayble
The most common natural predator of haybles are horses and cows, merciless carnivores typically found in rural areas throughout the Northern Hemisphere. These brutish beasts that feed on haybles are usually found in close proximity to hayble herds, especially in winter. [See: SAD BUT TRUE, below] Haybles have no real defensive maneuvers, besides the mostly harmless Rolling behavior, described in the previous article. Really, the only thing haybles can do to protect their young and elderly is a technique commonly called "Piling."
SAD, BUT TRUE: Many farmers breed and raise herds of haybles in captivity, only to feed them to their herds of horses and cows during the winter, after the haybles reach maturity. Horrific scenes of these "domestic" beasts devouring a helpless hayble... taking weeks to entirely consume the dying, noble creature... are common throughout the countryside. In these instances, the rest of the herd of haybles is restrained from helping their fellow herdmember, usually by a large fence. Farmers typically claim that the fence is for the haybles' protection... to prevent their demise by the herds of horses and cows... but it has been argued by haybles rights activists that the fencing is, in fact, an exercise in psychological abuse against the haybles as they are forced to watch one of their own being slowly devoured.
In a last-ditch effort to protect the weaker members of a herd, haybles will stack themselves into a large pile, pushing the weak and defenseless members of the herd towards the center. This "Piling" behavior is an attempt to save certain herdmembers by sacrificing others. The two most commonly seen hayble piling techniques are the "Row" and the "Heap."
To form a Row, haybles line up next to each other and press their sides tightly together. Each hayble faces the opposite direction of its neighbor, therefore offering the best view of the herd's surroundings. When incoming predators are spotted, the haybles will send a silent vibration to their neighbors. The message is sent from one to another, almost immediately reaching all the haybles in the Row. Depending on the size of the herd, Rows can stretch across entire fields. In cases where long-range visibility is an issue, the haybles may form a Double Row, where one Row is directly on top of the other. The elevation of the second Row offers greater height, yet the close body contact still allows for swift communication among the herd. The Double Row does not provide the protection that a Heap does, due to the "single file" nature of the formation.
A Heap is an even more complicated and defensive maneuver than the Row. Once a predator is spotted, the haybles will move to make several shorter Rows, usually several haybles deep and wide. Imagine a hayble cheerleader squad performing a pyramid, and you have the idea. As mentioned before, the weaker members of the herd are pushed towards the center to offer them as much protection as possible from predators. Amazingly, haybles are able to stay in the Heap formation for months, if necessary.
Haybles can't hold a camera, silly! Not only are they lacking arms, they wouldn't have the eye for it anyway. Imagine it... all the pictures would be of hay and other haybles. BOOOOOR-ING!
|These haybles are slowly moving towards the drainage ditch in the lower left of the photo, presumably to find water.
asked hayble questions
Q: Why don't I ever see a hayble move?
A: The answer to this is simple: haybles are stealthy creatures, and also very slow-moving. A hayble may actually be moving while you are watching it, but so slowly that you won't notice. In addition, haybles are very aware of being watched. Just like other woodland creatures, they have a natural "deer in the headlights," instinct to hold still when startled by onlookers.
Q: What do haybles eat?
A: As mentioned in the previous article, haybles subsist almost exclusively on hay, and can clear a field in a matter of hours
Q: Why do haybles look like they are made out of hay?
A: As they say... you are what you eat.
Monique Reed of College Station, TX
shares her insights on Southern hayble behavior
Back to Haybles, Part 1
Go to Haybles, Part 3