8 Unusual Guard Animals

alpaca

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For millennia, dogs have been our constant guardians, warning us when danger is afoot. However, canines aren't the only species that can act as sentinels. Other animals can be used to deter thieves and protect our valuables.

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Donkeys

pair of donkeys

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Guard dogs aren't the only option for farmers. Guard donkeys can also be stationed with sheep to protect their woolly companions from harm.

Donkeys are an appealing option for ranchers because they don't require special feeding or care. They can be turned out with the sheep to graze the same pastures. These territorial equids will stand up to a coyote that comes prowling around the herd, and are likely to fend off the threat.

According to Modern Farmer, donkeys "are capable of dishing out crushing blows with both their front and hind legs as well as using their large teeth to bite raiding intruders."

While donkeys might not be the perfect solution to any danger befalling the flock, they have certainly earned a reputation as a great option for ranchers.

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Dolphins

Dolphin leaping in the ocean

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It's not just land-bound animals that can help us out. Smart and powerful, dolphins have been employed as guard animals under the sea.

Though controversial, the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program has trained dolphins for tasks such as protecting ships and patrolling harbors. The program has existed since the 1959. Bottlenose dolphins, with their keen intellect and advanced sonar system, are able to detect underwater threats including mines.

It isn't just dolphins who are part of the program either. The Marine Mammal Program also employs sea lions for similar tasks.

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Llamas and Alpacas

llama

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They might not look like the toughest of guard animals, but llamas and alpacas are actually pretty tough, especially when compared with the sheep they are enlisted to protect. Their territorial nature and fighting instincts are great deterrents for predators. After all, if you've ever been face to face with a tall and toothy llama, you know they can be pretty intimidating.

Kicking, spitting, and screaming, they can chase off smaller predators like foxes, coyotes, and weasels with ease. When threatened, llamas are known to emit a loud alarm sound and often run toward an intruder, protecting the herd.

Thanks to this tough, stubborn, and fearless nature, llamas and their smaller alpaca cousins have become an increasingly popular option for ranches in the western United States.

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Geese

geese

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If you've ever been chased by a goose at the park, it won't surprise you to learn that they've been used as guard animals throughout history.

Geese are credited with warning the Romans of a sneak attack by the Gauls. And much more recently, geese have been employed to stand guard at police stations in rural China.

Dr. Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky writes, "Geese are able to distinguish regular everyday noises from other noises. As such, they are good as watch animals."

While they won't be able to fight off attackers of larger size (or sharper teeth), they can certainly scare off the more meek of intruders and are a highly effective warning system with their loud vocalizations.

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Ostriches and Emus

ostrich

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Geese might not be able to fend off attackers, but an ostrich sure can. Ostriches can range from 6 to 9 feet in height, weigh between 200 to 300 pounds, and can run more than 40 miles per hour. They can kick like no one's business, too, and are willing to fight to defend themselves or their chicks. The ostrich's long, powerful legs and sharp claws can be formidable weapons.

If you make an ostrich mad, you better be prepared for the consequences. Their intimidation factor alone makes them helpful guard animals whether watching over smaller livestock or patrolling property.

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Cobras

cobra

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Snakes are scary to most people, especially the infamously deadly cobra. So it is no wonder that releasing a cobra to guard something valuable has been a useful strategy.

In 1978, the Skansen Zoo in Stockholm decided to release a cobra to protect the zoo from an epidemic of animal thefts. "We let the cobra loose among the cages, glass cases and fish tanks when we close at night."

With a guard that measures at more than 14 feet and possess a deadly bite, needless to say, after this press release, the thefts stopped.

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Alligators

alligator

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Alligators can be effective guards if you're just looking to intimidate potential intruders. After all, there's a reason why cartoons and campy shows feature a moat full of alligators to keep people out of a stronghold. Interestingly, alligators seem to be a go-to guardian for drug dealers.

In 2011, a 4-foot long alligator named Wally was found guarding 2,200 marijuana plants worth $1.5 million. In 2013, police found 34 pounds of marijuana being guarded by a 5-foot-long (and very ill) dwarf caiman named Mr. Teeth in California. In 2016, two crocodiles were found guarding 500,000 euros worth of crystal meth, synthetic drugs, firearms and 300,000 euros in cash in Amsterdam.

These are just a few of many instances in which the frightening reptiles have been used as sentries.

Bear in mind that in addition to not being a good idea, it's illegal for the general public to feed, handle, or possess alligators in most states.

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Screamers

screamer

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If you need an alarm system, employing screamers might be a good option.

Screamers are South American birds and they are made to be guardians. American Bird Conservancy notes, "Screamers are the 'guard birds' of their habitats; their trumpet-like calls can carry for several miles, warning other birds, such as Blue-throated Macaw, Orinoco Goose, and Streamer-tailed Tyrant, of approaching danger."

If they're this good at warning other birds of danger, then it's no surprise humans have used their watchful ways for our own purposes. The birds can be tamed easily enough to be used to warn farmers of predators such as raptors approaching their flocks of poultry.

They can also be quite aggressive and they're armed. Screamers have bonelike spurs inside their wings that they use for protection.