The Minor family’s large animal collection provides a glimpse of some rarely-seen species in the San Jacinto Valley
■ Mary Ann Morris / Editor
On a clear day, you can see forever. At least that’s what the musical with music by Burton Lane and a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner claim. At the Double J Ranch on Park Hill, commonly known as the Park Hill Animal Farm, on a clear day, one might be able to get a glimpse of the herd of bison that roam the hills there. Some days, you get a front row view of these magnificent animals, and some days the search is fruitless.
My kids and I visit the animal farm quite often, as it’s only a few blocks from our house. Through chain-link fencing, visitors can watch some animals that are typically only accessible through long drives to out-of-area zoos with pricey entrance fees.
The ranch owners, Wayne and Carol Minor, allow a viewing area so the public can watch the animals for free, but access is limited to the dirt lot on the shoulder of Park Avenue near Lincoln Street where cars can pull off the road to catch a view of spectacular wildlife, including bison, camels, zebras, goats, sheep and the newest addition – a Texas Longhorn bull calf named Morris. The Minors even decorate the manger during the holidays.
But please, be respectful of others’ properties – permission is granted as a courtesy, not a right, and is only extended on condition visitors follow normal standards of good behavior and follow the posted rules – don’t trespass and don’t feed the animals. Their owners ensure the animals have everything they need.
Some animals have specialized diets, and the carrots or apples or chips visitors may have on-hand that might be tempting to feed them could create problems.
“Collecting animals was started by my father-in-law,” said Carol. “We started out with donkeys, sheep and goats, and then it mushroomed into the larger, more rare animals. There are probably about 10 bison left on the hill, and we have more than 60 goats and sheep, several peacocks and a horse.”
The zebras usually gather under the shade trees toward the back of the viewing area. According to the workers who were feeding the animals on one of the days I stopped by, the zebras typically stay together near the stand of trees, protecting the new baby zebra that was born this spring.
The camels arrived in March this year from Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona, and are almost done with their shed cycle. The camels, Bodhi, the dark brown camel, is 3 years old and Hauser, the light beige camel, is 4 years old; both males, they are still considered infants in the camel world until they are 6 years old, according to Carol.
“They are very curious, friendly and lovable animals,” said Carol. “They are really people-oriented and affectionate. They even rest their heads on our shoulders. But because they are still infants, we can’t put a saddle on them or ride them until they are older.”
Carol said it was an interesting experience when the camels were delivered to the ranch.
“Every animal on this farm just went crazy when the camels were offloaded from the truck. The zebras just ran around – the sheep were running around, the peacocks were crowing, the dogs barked,” she said. “It was really profound that all the animals had such a reaction.”
The initial excitement has worn off on the rest of the animals, and Bodhi and Hauser are just part of the family now. All of the animals even eat together.
The dairy farm from which they bought them uses camel’s milk in cosmetics and also sells camel’s milk.
Did you know that camels can produce around five pounds of hair a year? Hair may be collected by shearing, combing or by collecting fiber shed naturally during the six to eight-week shedding season in late spring.
While the Minor’s haven’t decided what to do with Hauser and Bodhi’s shedded hair, camel hair cloth is made from pure camel hair or a blend of camel hair and another fiber. The outer protective fur, called guard hair, is coarse and inflexible and can be woven into haircloth. Guard hair can be made soft and plush by blending it, especially with wool. The camel’s pure undercoat is very soft, and is frequently used for coats.
The best place to view these amazing animals is on Park Avenue between Lincoln and Stanford streets. The bison can be found anywhere on the hill, so take a drive and see if you can find any of these elusive creatures.