Powell farm an unlikely place for camels
CODY, Wyo. (AP) — The typical scenery encompasses Jan Sapp’s Arrowhead Alpacas farm; barns, livestock grounds, pastures. But one sight in particular catches the eye as far from ordinary, a sight that one might expect to see in the Middle East rather than Powell.
Sapp is the proud owner of two camels, named Carrie, 3, and Lincoln, 2, each with their own distinct personality.
Sapp hosts local school groups and private tours on her farm where visitors can see, feed and even ride the 7-foot-tall camels on three different kinds of saddles, all free of charge.
“Anybody’s who’s interested,” Sapp said. “It’s education.”
For educational groups, Sapp organizes activities and challenges like puzzles and crosswords, drawing a learning connection.
“Sometimes, depending upon the length of time, we will do projects — usually it’s with alpaca fiber,” Sapp said. “I can’t do a farm tour in under an hour.”
The two camels even made a recent celebrity appearance in the Cody Fourth of July parade.
Carrie, a bottle-fed camel, has a very curious personality, nudging a camera lens with her obtuse snout at seemingly every opportunity. Lincoln on the other hand, is a bit more reserved, keeping a watchful eye as Carrie frolics.
“We want them to have that respect for people,” Sapp said.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Sapp sometimes seeks out extra help raising her camel “children.” Utilizing the internet and recruiting help from fellow camel owner Jason Mayfield of Livingston, Montana, Sapp now has a wide range of knowledge and insight into raising camels.
“He’ll tell us, ‘O.K. now, this is what you need to do next,’” Sapp said, smiling.
Sapp’s son, Phill Sapp, also lends a hand. Although he had never worked with camels before, he says his lifetime experience with farm animals has shown him that camels aren’t all that different from goats and pigs.
“Just kind of reading the animal,” Phill said. “Just reading comfort levels and space. Positive and negative reactions to things.”
“Kush, kush, kush,” Phill instructs Carrie, meaning “down.”
“They’ll push you until you push back,” he said. “You have to draw that line really fast.”
Mayfield stresses the importance of ending each camel training on a positive note. Carrie has a phobia of water, so the two work toward getting her in a stream nearby, inching closer and closer to the shoreline each time.
“He would put down a rock and if we got past that rock, it was a good day stop,” Jan said.
Carrie and Lincoln follow the Sapp’s direction, but not without a few guttural grunts, quite like developing adolescents.
“We would leave the barn open for Carrie,” Jan said. “Until she learned how to open the tack room door. So then I would lock it and she would unlock the tack room door and open it. Take the broom and haul the broom off. She’d get into the treats, turn the lights on. But she wouldn’t turn them off — I’d say she’s just like a teenager.”
Playful and competitive, the two camels lunge for hanging brush and balls laying around the farm yard. They also have an unsatisfiable taste for weeds.
“They love weeds, they love tumbleweeds,” Jan said. “I’m like, ‘yes baby, you eat all those weeds.’”
With llamas and alpaca grazing, turkeys clucking, chickens clucking and roosters crow, the Sapp farm is quite an unusual place to be.
“People ask lots of questions,” Jan said. I can’t do a tour in less than an hour.”
Sapp says it will still be a few years before Lincoln and Carrie breed together, but when they do, the family will get to enjoy the tasty camel milk, which ironically, was the original inspiration for getting the camels in the first place.
“It’s good for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, for rheumatoid arthritis, autism, fibromialgia,” Sapp said. “People will come out and say, ‘Oh they’re so cute.’ Well, each one of them has a purpose. We don’t raise just cute.”
Information from: The Cody Enterprise, http://www.codyenterprise.com