Sunday, June 6, 2010

Animals Abroad, Part I: Why I have more pictures of sheep than castles

Tourists come to England to see the ruins. They come to see castles, abbeys, and Hadrian’s Wall. But the picturesque landscape holds another secret, one that delights visitors and sometimes warrants more photographs than the stone ruins.

Lamb at Kiplin Hall

What is it about sheep that draws the camera lens? Is it their cotton-ball-on-sticks appearance? Or is it their (mostly) nonchalant attitude towards the public?

And why is it that we so often come home from vacations with pictures of these:

Horses near Leeds
(photo courtesy of Sarah Swinney)

and these:

Cows and calves at Hadrian's Wall

and these:

Mama and lambs running away, Hadrian's Wall

...when we can see them at home…without the cost of a plane ticket or rental car?

And remember that while cows and sheep are the most commonly sighted animals around ruins, they are by no means the only. Many historic sites keep chalkboards for visitors to record the animals they’ve seen on that day, with birds, deer, and rabbits among the most popular. Even locals seem to enjoy recording these sightings, so I can’t believe this animal obsession resides solely in the minds of foreign visitors.

It is even more fascinating considering these animals, especially the sheep and cows, are not a ploy to attract visitors, but rather the representation of someone’s livelihood, which is more often than not impeded by our visitation to sites like Castlerigg and Hadrian’s Wall. The owners of these lands did not ask for a historic site in the middle of their grazing pasture.

But it does make for a great picture.

Sheep grazing at Castlerigg (ancient monument in the foreground)

-Katharine Thompson

No comments:

Post a Comment