in April and May, not in moisture and beneath cold clouds, but in unbroken, unflecked sunshiny days and dewless nights. [Jan.] 13th. W. S. to S.W. Clouds .30 light and filmy. This afternoon my sheep were inclined to be contented over their short mixed nibbling of plants, new and old, and towards night all were tranquilly outspread upon the wrinkled gulchy banks of Dry Creek just opposite my cabin. I always carry a book and usually find a few moments for reading. At this time I was luxuriating in Shakespeare, looking up occasionally to see that my leaders were not running off. Suddenly I heard a rushing sound which was followed by a kind of low frightened bleating. I looked over the flock and saw what appeared to be two handsome shepherd dogs, with very bushy tails and erect ears. They were about 100 yards from me, and I saw that they had killed and were eating a lamb. I set Fanny after them, but after chasing them up the hill she abandoned the hopeless pursuit. I knew that they must be coyotes - California wolves, abundant everywhere on the plains and away nearly to the summits of the Sierra. They are small, about the size of an English shepherd dog, but with longer stronger legs. [They are] yellowish dark grey, and have a very keen, spiky, whistly, musical bark. They are the greatest of all the enemies of California sheep raisers, destroying many of his lambs despite his watchfulness and industry in killing them off with poison, etc. They are beautiful animals, and although cursed of man, are loved of God. Their sole fault is that they are fond of mutton. The sheep of my flock are unhappy creatures, dirty and wretched, miserably misshapen and misbegotten, and I am hardly sorry to see them eaten by those superior beings, the wolves.
Original journal dimensions: 14 x 18 cm.
Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library
John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist