24 Jul 2017

Rabbits riding on sheep

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:14 pm on 24 July 2017

Mosgiel farmer Ferg Horne was looking after his neighbour’s sheep while he was away in Russia when the floodwaters came through the Taieri Plains on Friday.

Three rabbits found sitting on sheep during recent flooding on the Taieri plains.

Three rabbits found sitting on sheep during recent flooding on the Taieri plains. Photo: Supplied: Ferg Horne

When he was finally able to get to the sheep on Saturday morning, they were standing in three inches of water and he noticed two of them had something on their backs.

“I thought it must have been a bit of debris or something on the sheep from the flood, but the closer I got, I realised it was rabbits.”

Mr Horne said he believed as well as staying out of the floodwaters, the rabbits had been getting warmth from the sheep.

“They were quite comfortable, but I had to shift them through the water and they were going through six raised inches of water.

“They weren’t very good jockeys, they fell off by the time I got to where I was shifting the sheep to dry land, but I did look back and they were climbing up the tree.”

He said when he went back later in the day when the water had receded, the rabbits were no longer in the tree.

In that part of the country, rabbits are typically seen as pests for farmers.

“The only reason I didn’t deal to them was because they were so resilient, I thought they deserved to live.”

Mr Horne has farmed there all of his life, since he left school. He’s 64 now, “so I’ve been about for a few years,” he said.

The weekend’s flood was the worst he had seen since 1980 and he was now beginning the cleanup.

“The farm is clear now. We’re good. The water has all gone. It’s pretty wet and mucky. Our house is dry so that’s not a problem, but further down the plain it’s pretty rough down there. Those guys are still well under.”

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