Rabbits pictured surfing on sheep's backs to escape rising floodwaters

Farmer 'couldn't believe it' when he saw the wild rabbits riding atop the herd 

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 26 July 2017 13:29 BST
The rabbits hopped onto the sheep's backs to escape rising floodwaters
The rabbits hopped onto the sheep's backs to escape rising floodwaters (AP)

A farmer has photographed wild rabbits riding on the backs of sheep to escape rising floodwaters during heavy rain in New Zealand.

Ferg Horne, 64, said he had never seen anything like it and snapped the pictures because he knew his family would never believe what he had witnessed.

"I couldn't believe it for a start," he added.

Mr Horne was trudging through the deluge to rescue a neighbour's 40 sheep from the floodwaters on Saturday at their South Island farm near Dunedin when he spotted some dark shapes from a distance.

He was puzzled because he knew his neighbour, who was away in Russia attending a nephew's wedding, did not have any black-faced sheep.

Then he saw the bedraggled wild rabbits hitching a ride - two atop one sheep and a third on another.

The sheep were huddled together on a high spot on the farm, standing in about three inches of water.

Mr Horne said the rabbits had got wet but seemed fairly comfortable and relaxed atop their fleeced friends.

The farmer typically shoots rabbits - which are considered pests in New Zealand - when he sees one.

"But they'd showed so much initiative, I thought they deserved to live, those rabbits," he said.

Disabled sheep given wheels to walk

Mr Horne herded the sheep to a patch of dry ground on the farm about 50 metres away.

"As they jumped through the water, the rabbits had a jolly good try at staying on," he said.

He added the rabbits appeared to cling onto the wool with their paws. They fell off as they reached higher ground but managed to climb a hedge to safety.

Mr Horne returned later that afternoon to find the floodwaters receding, the sheep all safe, and the rabbits long gone.

The farmer's home also remained dry.

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