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The summer of 2013 we profiled attractions that you can visit as a day trip from the Charlotte region.

There And Back: Lazy 5 Ranch

Duncan McFadyen

If you take Main Street east from downtown Mooresville, it becomes a two-lane country road. A few miles down, you’ll see some camels grazing behind a fence just a few yards from the pavement. That’s how the Lazy 5 Ranch started. In the late 1980s, a guy who liked to collect exotic animals would let school groups peer at the critters from his driveway, but as interest grew, he decided to let people get up close. It's become very popular.

“All right everybody, let’s go out; let’s go have some fun,” says wagon driver Jim Ray.

You can drive yourself through, but several signs warn: “enter at your own risk.” The one piece of advice I got before visiting Lazy 5 was don’t take your own car, unless you want, say an ostrich to drag its beak in your paint. So, I opted for the horse-drawn wagon ride, and I have to say, I think that was good advice. Along with me on the ride are about a dozen people.

The big draw is the ranch’s giraffes. Most of the animals have free reign of the 185 acre property. You see water buffalo living alongside Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs and white deer from the Alps with emus from Australia.

“Emus are the first animals to have babies; they do it in summertime, which is November or December Australia,” Ray says. “So they stay on their calendar.”

The ranch’s population of about 800 animals will double this year after all the babies are born. Ray says they’ll sell some or barter with other exotic animal parks and zoos to bring in new animals. And the summer is a good time to catch some little ones running around. Two-year-old Harper Price thought it was cool.

“I like the baby pigs,” she says.

The experience of seeing and touching the animals up close really seems to draw kids in. Harper’s 5-year-old brother Jude started out a little shy, but by the end he was eagerly holding his hand out for a llama.

“I think the animals liked me, he says, “because I’m nice to them. You have to be really soft with the animals because maybe they’ll kind of bite you”

Jude didn’t get bitten, and our driver Jim Ray says those kinds of mishaps are rare, especially if you follow his instructions:

“Hold your fingers out straight and make sure your hands down low so animals can get to the feed. If you happen to curl your fingers up, the animals like that, because that means they can nibble on those fingers. Straighten them out and continue feeding,” he advises.

The animals aren’t shy at all. They know that when they see a car or wagon coming, they’re going to get fed, and they walk right up

So when a Brahma cow shuffled up—you know, those intimidating-looking ones with the hump behind their head—I decided to try my hand at feeding him.

(The Brahama snorts)

Turns out, that means he likes me. So, I successfully fed the big cow, and I kept all my fingers at the Lazy 5 Ranch.

Join us for “There & Back: Day Trips From Around The Charlotte Region” most Saturdays this summer on WFAE

If you have an idea of someplace we should check out, email us at news@wfae dot org, find us on facebook, or send us a tweet @wfae or @wfaeduncan.