I have learned many things during my five months in the Mara: things about hyenas, things about birds (Kasaine is a birding pro), things about Kenyan and Maasai culture, and one very special thing about shoats. Now, you may be wondering "Hey Kenna, what exactly is a shoat?" I wondered the same thing during my first cow count (on the eastern side of the park we frequently see Maasai herders. Twice a month we count the number of domestic animals we encounter in the park). Leslie was calling out numbers left and right, "24 cows, 78 cows, 14 cows" and I was frantically trying to keep up until she said, "38 shoats." I paused for second. Leslie saw my confusion, and quickly explained that we count goats and sheep together because they are often in one herd together and are very difficult to distinguish at a distance. That was all well and good and made perfect sense to me, so we went on our way.
For the next month or two, upon further inspection of the shoat herds, I began to notice a funny contraption on some of the shoats. It looked like an overdone belt of some sort. Every time I saw a shoat with one on, I kind of wondered what it was but didn't think too hard about it. It always seemed to be on a bigger animal so I mistakenly assumed that it had something to do with keeping track of the herd or an older animal.
It wasn't until I passed through a herd of shoats on my way to Nairobi with one of our cooks that I finally asked what these belts were actually for.
Our cook kindly explained in his broken English (while chuckling nervously), that these belts were to keep the herd from multiplying out of control. The belt keeps the boy shoats from having sex with the girl shoats.
I was a little embarrassed, partly because once I knew, it seemed so obvious, and partly because I made our poor cook explain it to me. But now that I know, I just find the things hilarious. It is a chastity belt for boys and probably one of the best methods of birth control in the world.