Gay rams – Dear Aunty Thistledown

A farmer correspondent put a crayon on a ram for mating and he did not mark a single ewe. He did mark some of the other rams though. Is there such a thing as a gay sheep?

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Q – I think one of my rams might be gay. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it is perfectly normal for rams to be, ah, interested in each other. Anybody chanting about the “unnaturalness” of boy-on-boy or girl-on-girl activities has never been anywhere near a paddock of rams or heifers. There is bisexual bopping going on all over the farm. However, I put a crayon on this ram for mating and he did not mark a single ewe. He did mark some of the other rams though. Is there such a thing as a gay sheep?

Regards,Don’t print my real name because I don’t want to be known as the gay sheep guy

A – Dearest Gay Sheep Guy,

Fear not, no one will actually call you that. The “Gay Sheep Guy” label is already written in indelible ink on Dr Charles Roselli of Oregon Health and Science University. Dr Gay Sheep Guy was so named in 2005 when, as the legend goes, a member of the Oregon State football team was caught on an intoxicated roadtrip with a stolen university ram. Police enquired about the origin of the ovine passenger and were told that it was one of Dr Roselli’s “gay sheep”. And indeed it was.

This was the starter’s pistol for years of weird publicity for Dr Roselli’s research group. But first, yes, rams can be gay. So can rats. And roosters. And bonobo chimps. And probably many, many other species. Dr Gay Sheep Guy’s research group carefully observed rams for two years each and found that 8–10% of commercially bred stud rams only ever mate with other rams. That is in Oregon, mind you, the rainbow flag capital of the USA. Results may vary in other parts of the world, should anyone be bold enough to do the research.

The Oregon research group asked themselves if there was something anatomically different about the brains of the homosexual rams. They found some evidence that parts of the gay rams’ brains were more comparable to ewes’ brains than heterosexual rams. They theorised that this might be due to differences in hormone levels when the lamb’s brain was developing in the womb. It might have something to do with their sense of smell, since heterosexual rams smell urine to detect a ewe in estrus. Gay rams might get off on different scents. But, in true science fashion the results were largely inconclusive and each answered question led to a bunch of new questions and theories to test.

The gay sheep research provides fascinating observations about how the brain works. In gay sheep and in activists. PETA, the activist group, kicked off a campaign against the research declaring that “homophobes are murdering gay sheep”. Dr Rosselli received death threats after activists erroneously stated he was drilling electrodes into the brains of live sheep to find a method to reverse homosexuality. There were no electrodes or drills, and the researchers were trying to make more, not fewer, gay sheep during their quest for understanding. They also found a larger population of bisexual and asexual (not interested in the deed at all) rams that they seem to have left alone.

And of course, animal activists are not the only weirdos around. Hard-core Darwinists always have something to say about homosexuality. Certain people don’t believe that gay animals (or people) truly exist, because they don’t pass on their genes and should therefore have “bred out”. It’s genetics, not gravity. Non-breeders don’t float off into the atmosphere. They have close relatives that can pass on their genes. Some people believe that things like homosexuality and menopause may actually be evolutionary adaptations to help close relatives successfully rear their offspring.

All that ignores that gay humans have been fathering kids since time began and therefore (if we were to look closely enough) we may find that gay animals may also have some kind of “grin and bear it” type arrangements. Maybe your ram will be propositioned by a couple of lesbian ewes? Or some hogget armed with appletinis (and daddy issues) will desperately attempt to turn him?

Either way he’s a diversity hire!

Hope this helps,Aunty Thistledown

  • Cali Thistledown lives on a farm where all the gates are tied together with baling twine and broken dreams. While she rarely knows what day it is, she has a rolodex of experts to call on to get the info you need. She’s Kiwi agriculture’s agony aunt.
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