San Francisco Zoo

14 Feb 2004

I was looking through Yahoo's most emailed photos (always good for a laugh or a leer) and I saw a picture of a man in his kitchen with his pet bison. I thought it was adorable (if I can use that word to describe something ten times my mass), and I really wanted to pet it. I know there are bison in Golden Gate Park, but I suspect they're meant to be appreciated from a distance. Instead I went to the zoo, figuring they'd have some goats or a cow I could bother.

Despite having lived here eight years, I'd never been to the local zoo. I haven't been to any zoo in a few years, so the first order of business was to see all the wacky animals from around the world.

Yay! Water!
Kids got to aim the hose.

Yay! Ice!

A shy kangaroo cut himself out of my photos.

Even a miniature donkey looks big up close. Hee haw!

Cow eggs!

Oh, my.

I got to stand about 4m from an adult male lion as it was being fed. My photos don't do justice to the scale or the action. Watching up close while a predator whose face is the size of my torso gnaws meat off a bone is really something.

watch her be impatient
watch him gnaw

I also saw tigers, rhinos, elephants, flamingos, a cassowary, an emu, an ostrich, giraffes, an anaconda, baby meerkats, otters, owls, bald eagles, hippos (I'm always amazed at how fat they are), lemurs, monkeys, a tapir, kangaroo (both red and grey, and I don't know which the albino was), two wallaroo, a koala, various antelopes, miscellaneous bears, a kookaburra, and an assortment of other strange birds. They were all pretty cool, and I had a fine time gawking at them, but what really made my day were the goats and sheep.

As I'd hoped, there was a "family farm" area for the more hands-on experience. That's where the miniature donkey (shown above) was, as well as geese, ducks, goats, sheep, and even a couple of alpaca. The alpaca were a bit standoffish, but the goats and sheep were phenomenally complacent, and just what I needed. I'm not convinced sheep have bodies underneath all that fluffy wool, but their little legs move somehow.


One of the goats, Paddy, is more clever or maybe just more forward than his fellows. The usual procedure for goats there is either to stand patiently on a pedestal and wait for someone to brush their hair with one of the provided goat-hair brushes, or to nonchalantly mill about, usually near one of the coin operated food dispensers (a gumball machine stocked with goat chow), and look especially cute whenever someone appears to be holding food.

Paddy can mill with the best of them, but he also has a special technique that might explain why he seems to be somewhat plumper than the other goats. Rather than wait for someone to take food from the dispenser and hand it to him, Paddy likes to cut out the middleman and, as soon as you've put in the money and turned the knob, he climbs up and eats the food straight out of the machine. I hope you weren't planning to feed anyone else.

For 25 cents, I got some close-ups.