Jack Owens steers a carriage full of children through the 3 1/2-mile safari trail as another carriage passes. Owens has worked at the Lazy 5 Ranch for almost 10 years.
A blue and gold macaw holds on to a branch while greeting visitors with a loud â€œHello.â€
Diane Turbyfill / LTN Photo
MOORESVILLE â€” A short drive beyond Lincoln County leads to pastures and woods filled with animals rarely seen outside a state zoo.
A blue and gold macaw bellows a hearty, â€œHello,â€ as visitors arrive at the Lazy 5 Ranch. The privately owned park has been home to exotic animals for about 10 years.
â€œIâ€™m seeing a lot of animals up close that Iâ€™ve never seen before,â€ says a little girl as she hand-feeds a llama from the back of a horse-drawn carriage.
Jack Owens has worked at the ranch for almost 10 years. As children and families sit in the wagon, he navigates through the park spouting off facts about the animals that reside there.
He introduces passengers to Luther, the 8-year-old rhinoceros. He says the prehistoric-looking animal should live to be 40- to 50-years-old.
Owens says he educated himself on the ranchâ€™s animals by looking in encyclopedias when he first started the job. Much of the facts heâ€™s also learned through the Internet and first-hand from animal caregivers.
The ranch serves as a habitat for more than 750 animals from six continents.
Though heâ€™s been there for years, Owens smiles and still gets a glimmer of excitement in his eyes as he pulls up to the fenced area containing the giraffes.
Children laugh and holler with excitement as the wagon approaches the many animals.
Zebras, wildebeests, yaks and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs are popular with the young visitors. Many animals can be fed directly from your hands.
But wagon rides through the park are only part of the activities at the Lazy 5 Ranch.
Families and individuals can opt to drive through the park themselves, feeding the animals through their car windows.
A petting zoo complete with buckets of food is available, and a playground and picnic area are on site.
The Lazy 5 Ranch is owned and operated by Henry Hampton.
Hampton has been raising exotic animals for more than 35 years. He opened the ranch in 1993 with a staff of five people operating out of two buildings and two operating wagons.
The 3 1/2-mile safari ride can be viewed each day by horse-drawn wagon or from private vehicles.
Want to go?
Where: Lazy 5 Ranch, 15100 N.C. 150 East, Mooresville
Cost: $8.50 for adults; $5.50 for children 2-11 and senior citizens; special group rates are available
Details: Call 704-663-5100 or check www.lazy5ranch.com
by Diane Turbyfill