Curious Cows

If you think cows are boring creatures who just eat grass or hay all day, chew their cud, and poop, you are right ― mostly. There are times, however, that cows can be pretty funny and show their personalities.

A little bull calf comes over to check me out.

Different breeds can have different temperments. For example, our bull Barry, may he rest in peace, was a Jersey. Jersey bulls are known to be aggressive; the females are known to be the opposite. Certain breeds can have certain tendencies, but genes can play a roll, and so can their environment and handling. Even though female Jersey’s are usually sweet and docile, I’ve seen my family milk cow, Sienna, act agressive on two occasions, both concerning horses.

My friend, Karin, once brought over one of her Thoroughbreds to my farm. Sienna charged him with a sound that, seriously, sounded like a growl. The horse freaked out and tried to bolt. I have never seen a horse afraid of a cow before. If that were usually the case, it would put all cowboys out of business. Sienna tried the same thing when I first brought home my horse Shiloh. Shiloh stood his ground, and they’ve been friends ever since.

For record-keeping reasons, I recently took photos of every mama cow owned by my in-laws. They have a mix of breeds, but mostly charolais, black angus, and red angus. It’s interesting to see how the different cows respond when you walk up to them to snap a picture. Cattle are very curious by nature, so they like to watch you to see what’s going on. The main question on their minds, of course, is: Do you have food? I wasn’t nearly as interesting to them with my cell phone in hand as I would have been with a feed bucket.

I could get fairly close to most of the mamas to take their portraits, but there were a few skittish ones that made it difficult. I think the main question on the scared ones’ minds was: Are you going to make me food?

Here’s one of the mama cows I photographed. Doesn’t she look happy to have her portrait taken? She wants to know if I brought food with me.

One very new bull calf came so close to me that it almost touched my leg. Meanwhile, the mama stood right behind him, giving him a low, throaty, warning moo. It sounded something like, “Junior, get back here right now. Don’t make me say it again!” I can relate.

One mama was right in the middle of having her calf when I came to take her photo. She dealt with my presence rather poorly. She ran around the pasture with her calf’s two hooves hanging out her back end, unwilling to lay down and birth the calf while I was around. Cows can be so odd sometimes.

Rita gives Selina a tongue bath.

Another oddity is how bovines decide who to lick. Of course, mama cows lick their offspring, but the licking doesn’t stop there. Just the other day, I saw two of my Longhorn cows standing face to face, one licking the other. This may not seem odd except that these same two Longhorns are always fighting each other for dominance. Friends one minute, enemies the next, I guess. On multiple occasions, I’ve watched Sienna lick our barn cat. What’s more, the cat seems to enjoy it.

It’s obvious that cows are weird with their tongues. They use them often to “clean” their nose. Yes, the tongue goes up the nostril. And my father-in-law wonders why I’m not interested in eating the cow tongues we get back from the butcher.  

Mabel multitasks, having a drink and cooling off at the same time.

Cows definitely differ in intelligence as well. You’ll get some that are quite clever and others that are dumber than the fence posts they run smack into. The same two Longhorns I described above, Rita and Selina, are rather bright. Our third Longhorn mama, Sassy, not so much. When it’s time to herd them all somewhere, I pretty much just have to point to the open gate with the first two. The other one likes to run in the opposite direction. Cows can certainly get frustrating when it’s time to work them. I’ll spare you some of those stories. They’re usually filled with a lot of crap, literally.  

If you have cows, too, feel free to email me with any of your curious cow stories. I’d love to share them on here sometime.

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