Author: Shayna Meliker
Date: January 2011
People: David Morgan
Fun facts: Asked what message he had for Americans, David Morgan said: "We love you. We appreciate you. You have fought wars. Men have died for values that we have, too, and to make our world safer. We are suffering with you, too. We are fighting the same battle."
They roam the farms — thousands and thousands of green acres — killing the jackals that prey on defenseless sheep.
These are the 53 hunting dogs that live on the Morgan family’s farm in Adelaide, South Africa. The farm’s 4,000 acres of rolling green slopes have been in the family more than 100 years, since David Morgan’s great-grandfather bought the land from its bankrupt owner. Morgan was born on a farm just a few miles down the road, and his grandfather left him this farm, called Whyte Bank. It’s 27 miles of gravel road to the nearest small town.
The dogs, which live at Whyte Bank but also serve neighboring farms, are trained to kill jackals and a kind of wildcat called a lynx.
“They kill the lambs, but they also maim them,” Morgan said of the predators. “They catch them around the neck, and sometimes the older ones can’t kill them, and they will bite pieces off, or damage their mouths, take bites out of their back legs. So they suffer a lot.”
The jackals gather at night at the highest point of the field, Morgan explained, and swoop down on lambs as they sleep next to their mothers. The dogs, usually starting at a year old, are trained with shock collars.
They hunt on Whyte Bank and neighboring farms Monday through Friday, sometimes killing four or five predators a week. Much of it depends on the weather: Wet conditions make it easier for the dogs to follow the jackal’s scent.
“They are dogs that are fast. They are dogs with good noses that can pick up the scent and follow it,” Morgan said. “There are those smaller dogs that can go into the holes if the jackals are trying to hide away.”
The most valuable dog, Amstel, came to the farm in the original hunting pack. Morgan estimates the dog is worth at least 30,000 rand — approaching $5,000.
Amstel and the other 52 dogs serve a rotation of farms in the Winterberg Range. Morgan said on some days, the pack can cover 25 miles across the web of farms that includes Morgan’s 5,000 sheep.
“It’s a common problem, and you can’t tackle it on your own,” he said. “It’s a community project.”