'Petting zoos' make party animals out of goats and sheep
POMONA, CALIFORNIA (AP) - Sheep and goats may not be known as party animals, but they're increasingly at the centre of the celebration as petting zoos grow in popularity for birthdays, graduations and other bashes.
Petting a gentle animal of any kind seems to appeal to young, old and in-between. Daycare centres, schools, churches and even nursing homes rent mobile zoos that will bring animals and handlers to them or organise trips to petting zoos.
"You can see the absolute joy as they are sitting there stroking some animal, particularly if it's the first time in their life they have touched one," said Mr Sky Shivers, superintendent of Fairview Farms at the Los Angeles County Fair, 56km east of downtown Los Angeles. "There is tranquility, an exchange of emotion that's amazing to watch."
Mr Shivers, 63, of Prague, Oklahoma, said a good zoo is as educational as it is entertaining, reeling off several fun facts: baseballs have wool in their cores; doctors use the intestinal lining from some animals to graft serious burns; female goats have beards like males; and while sheep prefer grass to weeds, goats want it the other way around.