A Cougar Amongst Them

There is no male equivalent for the word “cougar”.  The kind of cougar I’m talking about is a euphemism used for an older woman who enjoys spending time with younger males. Tonopah in the Pryor Mountains, would be an example of a proper cougar. At 27 years old, she took off from Duke, a stable & well-established band stallion, in favor of hanging out with the youngest band stallion duo on the mountain – He Who & Fiddle.  Tonopah has not been spotted this winter and may well have passed from old age.  If that is the case, and this past summer was one last hurrah for her then man, what a way to go!  Talk about a great role model for all the ladies.

Tonopah, a cougar in her natural habitat

Tonopah, a cougar in her natural habitat

When an old female sows some oats, it’s empowering.  When an older man preys on the young, he’s generally considered a creeper and the young female a gold digger.  It doesn’t really seem fair.  Why can’t older males be like… mountain lions or something?

Fuego

Bet that title had you concerned we were talking about a real cougar. Nope. Just Fuego.

In 2013, Fuego was a mountain lion.  First there were his antics sharing Belle with his buddy Eight.  That did not end in his favor, though you could argue a summer of love is better than nothing. (See here and here for more info on said escapades if you missed them the first time around)

Fuego wasted no time in jumping back in the game.  This time, he set his sights even younger.

Fibonacci (Nacci)

Fibonacci (Nacci)

Fibonacci is the 2012 daughter of Hypatia and a sorrel stallion who was removed in the 2011 roundup.  For the purposes of this blog, I will use the nickname Nacci (Nah-chee), to try and prevent confusion from an overload of F names.

Nacci is the youngest member of Fermat’s band.  In spite of the possibly unfortunate naming scheme, they are one of the most colorful bands in White Mountain.  They also used to be one of the most skittish, due to the wariness of the lead mare, a dainty sorrel roan named Taylor.

Fermat's Mares

Fermat’s Band

Fermat

Fermat

Lead mare Taylor

Lead mare Taylor

Auntie Lovelace

Auntie Lovelace

Bit by bit, Taylor and the others have begun to realize that humans are not a threat and letting me closer.  It just goes to show that with a little patience and respect, it really doesn’t take all that long for a wild horse band to allow humans to observe them from a reasonable distance. (Emphasis on reasonable, still try to stay 200-300 feet back yeah?)

This is a photo of baby Fibonacci in 2011, taken at 300mm and uncropped for perspective. The band saw my car and started to take off before I had even gotten out of the car

This is a photo of baby Fibonacci in 2012, taken at 300mm and uncropped for perspective. To the non-camera lingo savvy, that means they are *really* far away. The band saw my car and started to take off before I had even gotten out of the car

baby fibonacci ii

July 2012

baby fibonacci iv

fibonacci 2012

September 2012. A little closer than before, but still quite skittish. Taylor is below the hill hiding!

fibonacci napping

July 2013 – A sleepy Sunday. They’re now relaxed enough to keep napping when humans are around

But enough of that lecture. Back to Nacci! Nacci takes after her mother, Hypatia.  They are both curly and a little on the homely side.  It’s not that either is ugly or anything, they’re just more of the “cute girl next door” mother-daughter pair than the buxom bombshells of White Mountain.

Hypatia

Hypatia. A cutie patootey to be sure, but not smokin’ hot

fibonacci side view

Nacci kind of looks like a mule from the side. But to be fair, she’s only a yearling and has plenty of time to grow into a humble beauty like her mama

fibonacci with band

Those curls, though! They help to show off Nacci’s sugary sweet personality.

In October, I observed Fuego grazing very closely with Fermat’s band.  Usually, such a scene would imply that Fermat had accepted Fuego as a satellite stallion for the winter.  But that was not the case.  When a band stallion accepts a satellite, that satellite can be seen mingling amongst the rest of the band.  Fuego was still keeping his distance, and in particular, was not going near Fuego’s three adult mares.

As an aside, I’ve never really understood the satellite stallion mentality – a stallion will take on all the responsibility of having a band and will fight battles for the dominant band stallion, yet he reaps none of the “rewards” that come with it.  It seems like it would be easier to live the carefree life of a bachelor.

This is why I am not a wild stallion.

Fuego

Fuego

Anyway, Fuego wasn’t “dogging” the band in the hopes of stealing the band or a mare from Fermat either.  Fermat would have forced Fuego to keep a wider distance if that was the case, and both stallions would have shown a battle scar or two.

Let’s go back to what I said earlier: Fuego wasn’t really grazing all that close to Fermat’s three mares.  He was grazing very close to Nacci.  Nacci, meanwhile, was drifting further from her mother and closer to Fuego.  Fermat was allowing this behavior, and over the course of the two days I saw them, I never saw Fermat push Fuego away or snake Nacci back to the rest of the band.

Nacci comes up to say hi to me while Fuego follows her at a distance

Nacci comes up to say hi to me while Fuego follows her at a distance

The only conclusion I could reach was that Fuego was wooing Nacci.  It’s genius, really. Nacci will be turning two this spring.  She is old enough to leave her family band.  Fuego, meanwhile, has fought time and again and mostly come out of it with nothing but scars.  Mom and Dad are there the whole time, almost like a pair of chaperones, to keep a close eye on the two and decide whether Fuego is worthy of their darling daughter.  Not only were there no foals born in Fermat’s band in 2013, but Nacci is the only filly.

Nacci meanwhile, doesn’t have to face the stress of an instant separation from her family.  If Nacci were to decide she wasn’t truly ready to leave, she could have simply gotten in with the rest of the band and ignored Fuego’s advances until Fermat chased the bachelor off.  Instead, if Nacci choses to leave with Fuego, it will be her choice and done on her terms.  She certainly seems ready to me.  Unlike her “big” half-brother Maclaurian, Nacci has been weaned.

Nacci's step-brother Maclaurian is still nursing. How embarrassing!

Nacci’s step-brother Maclaurian is still nursing. How embarrassing!

Maclaurian acting as "chaperon" for his sister from another mister

Maclaurian acting as “chaperon” for his sister from another mister

This could all be conjecture, but earlier in that trip I had seen another stallion, Totem, acting in a very similar way with a yearling filly in Vimes band.  Totem was staying on the outskirts, while Chasma slowly inched a little closer to Totem under mom and step-dad’s watchful eye.

I don’t know how things stand right now.  What I do know is that The Cloud Foundation posted an update from Ginger that shows a photo of Fermat’s band minus Nacci.  Maybe Nacci was still there and just outside of the picture.  Maybe she was napping.  Maybe she died (that one’s pretty unlikely).  Or maybe, just maybe, she has wandered off on an adventure to start a band of her own.

Fuego and Fibonacci 2013

Nacci 8x10

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4 thoughts on “A Cougar Amongst Them

  1. Nacci is a beauty!!! I hope she and Fuego have a good, long life together. Sounds like Fuego has earned it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love your photos, and your comments are great! Keep going, Rachel! Eva

  3. Prairie girl says:

    Lol. Yep, you had me going at ‘Cougar’.
    Mountain lions, cougars, Pryor wilds…love em all.
    It must be wonderful to be in such close proximity to those beloved Pryors, higher up in the fields where they roam.
    I’ve only gotten to see the ‘usual’ handful driving along the main road.
    And it is a thrill for me every time.
    Thank you for telling this lovely and informative story along with such endearing pics of these horses, that we call ‘cats’. Hehe.

  4. alex says:

    Love the post!!!!! Tonapah is an awesome mare! if she really has not made it, then the one thing i can say is that she has had a pretty darn awesome life !!!! besides the desire to be with 2 younger boys her last summer 🙂 , she was awesome role model for her last harem sister Juniper/Jewel … i am sure she passes her wisdom and knowledge to the filly and will probably help her become an even better lead mare!

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