Breeds of a different color

Oxen are basically grown bull calves. A pair of calves is selected because of their disposition, size, color and alertness. The calves are raised together, and when they are 6 months old, they are castrated and called steer. As the steer age to be about 5, with a full set of teeth and training, the pair becomes a yoke of oxen.

The animals don't live very long.

I'd say 15 years is a good long life, Guilmette said.

The oxen like exercise, so while at the fair Plummer and Guilmette periodically walk them around the fairgrounds.

Not just at Christmas

Bob Smith is another animal lover who now breeds an unusual animal at least for this part of the world. Smith is the owner of 15 reindeer.

Smith is a retired school-teacher who also has a farm on Hop City Road.

Reindeer mostly live north of the Artic Circle, although Smith got his original pair from the farther south locale of Mayfield.

Like Plummer and Guilmette, Smith keeps his reindeer as pets and shows them at fairs. His busiest time of year with the reindeer is, of course, during the winter holidays when he is attending an event almost every night.

For the past five weeks, Smith has been busy taking care of two reindeer babies who were re-jected by their mothers. Omega is black and white and 2 months old, and Shadow, who is all black, was born on May 12. The two babies had to be bottle-fed and live inside Smith's home.

"They don't think they are reindeer, they want nothing to do with the rest of the animals," Smith said.

Smith also keeps two horses and a bunch of chickens, which mostly belong to his wife, Wendy.

Smith said reindeer are pretty easy to care for. They eat hay and grain, are pretty healthy animals, but fragile when they are young.

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