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Author Topic: Prairie dog holes - horses break legs?
harpandquill
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Out here in the west I'm told prairie dogs are a danger to horses because they step in the holes and break their legs. I'm skeptical of this. I can't find proof of this actually happening. Anyone know the truth of this?
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Avril
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It seems highly unlikely to me, given the appearance of horse hooves and prairie dog holes. Besides, if you step in a hole, do you break your leg?

Still, I've heard this before, too. I never gave it much thought.

Avril

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oh pleeze
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it appears to be some what of a problem. here's an excerpt from an article i found in the "Daily Camera: Broomfield [Denver area]:

"Broomfield resident Gordon Ballinger owns 20 acres, upon which his home sits, near the Great Western Reservoir site where the city proposes to relocate prairie dogs. He fears for his horses' safety as prairie dog holes increase, as well as deterioration of his property. He said he has called the city to complain — as well as making 11 calls to the Division of Wildlife in recent months — about increasing numbers of prairie dogs crossing into his property."

http://www.dailycamera.com/bdc/broomfield_news/article/0,1713,BDC_2495_2236081,00.html

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Silas Sparkhammer
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My papa was a cowboy, and I learned the trade at his knee. He was death on ground squirrels, for this reason. They dug deep, broad holes that could be dangerous to horses.

I don't know of any cases where a horse actually was hurt by a hole...but I do know that we'd have to ride slowly over flat grassy areas that the squirrels had dug up.

So, whether true or not, at least one family o' cowpokes believes it to be true.

Silas

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tagurit
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I`ve heard of groundhog (woodchuck) burrows causing horses and cattle to break legs in Michigan. Someone also told me that the reason old english sheepdogs are death on burrowing animals is because that`s part of their heritage, having been trained to keep an area where their sheep are clear of the critters.

But, all this is hearsay.

I tend to believe these animals can break their legs in burrows, though. If you consider how badly a human can twist an ankle in one, then consider a four-legged animal doing the same, with the added weight of these beasts, particularly if they had any speed going at the time.

tag

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Gale
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Crossing my parents front so-called-lawn in west Texas on a moonless night is a good way to hurt yourself. It's not like your foot goes all the way into the hole, but that you lose your balance & can do a pretty evil number on your ankle. Can't answer for horses and I never broke my leg, but I have done some damage & turned the air blue by walking into gopher holes. Of course, I'm the woman who gave myself two black eyes by falling UP stairs.
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Baikal
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Well, even the Camera article doesn't seem to confirm the possibility of injury--it just says that people are concerned about it, and they may well be.

I recall reading an article in Scientific American or some other like magazine about prairie dogs. One part involved a researcher talking to a room of ranchers and asking them if any of them had, in fact, had a horse seriously injured by prairie dog burrows. Nobody raised their hands--but of course, they all knew that it happened.

Which is not to say that it doesn't. My personal suspicion would be that it does, but not at the magnitude it's believed to. But maybe that's because of people's vigilance in taking care of the holes to begin with.

-Baikal

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the Virgin Marrya
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Doesn't prove anything, but a guy I know who 'wrangled' horses for LOTR ended up taking his horses and leaving because of the rabbit holes in the Canterbury plains area where they were shooting horses at full gallop.

You'd have to be pretty sure it mattered to turn down Peter Jackson, wouldn't you?

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Jason Threadslayer
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
My papa was a cowboy, and I learned the trade at his knee. He was death on ground squirrels, for this reason. They dug deep, broad holes that could be dangerous to horses.

I heard the same thing about ground squirrels, Wyoming ground squirrels (pictures linked here) in particular. I was also told that they could eat more grass than cattle could. They also seem to carry bubonic plague.

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breezylynn
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Not horses and prairie dogs, but gophers and cattle. We HAVE on multiple occasions had cattle (usually frolicking young calves) with injured and sometimes broken legs from gopher holes.
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Noemi
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quote:
Originally posted by Jason the 13th Jinx:
I heard the same thing about ground squirrels, Wyoming ground squirrels (pictures linked here) in particular. I was also told that they could eat more grass than cattle could. They also seem to carry bubonic plague.

I have to ask, even though I know there isn't a logical answer, why on earth are they called Wyoming ground squirrels when they only live in a small part of Wyoming and also live in three other states? [Roll Eyes]

This is the type of ground squirrel I am familiar with and the entrance holes to their burrows are huge, large enough I've gotten my foot caught in them several times. The enterances also have huge mounds around them that can cause horses and people to stumble. It may be this aspect that caused the story start.

ETA: I talked to my husband about this right after posting and he said that one of his aunt's horses broke its leg stepping a gopher hole in the pasture his parents used to own. They also came close to the same thing happening to other horses in the same pasture.

Noemi "twisted her ankle many a time on those stupid mounds"

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Shoggoth
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I've heard of the dangers of prairie dog holes too, and I believe it, although it's probably very rare. Think of how fast a horse can go. Now imagine they are going at full gallop and their front leg falls into a hole. I believe prairie dog holes are of a decent depth. So they'll keep their forward momentum and fall forward, while one side of the opening to the hole provides a fulcrum, but other side of the hole blocks the leg from coming out.
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harpandquill
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Seems to me that the as horse evolved as a galloping creature, it should have also evolved the ability to wathch the ground to avoid obstacles. I mean, what about rocks? Ever stepped on a slanted rock and bent your ankle? If horses can avoid other ground hazards, why would they be so vulnerable to holes?

Really, I want a name, a date, of a horse breaking a leg in a prairie dog hole. Prarie dog treatment is a hot political issue out here, and both pro/anti groups, I think, are using bad facts to argue their points. I want to clear up this one particular fact.

Christine - on the prairie

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