Cattle do hold grudges

Scientists long ago (and by long ago, I mean 2005) discovered cattle form cliques and even go so far as to hold grudges. I've seen that in the herd of cows, bulls and calves who live next to the sanctuary and are, tragically, raised for consumption. There are probably 3-4 different sub-groups amongst the eighty some odd cattle, and they generally do not mix company. Except for the bulls who are equal opportunity flirters. My favorite sub-sub group is comprised of Long Face, Skinny Cow and White Tail. Yes, silly names, but I have a hard time getting even more personal than that. Long Face is a beautiful brown-brindle cow with a loooong white-blazed face. Skinny Cow is a smaller, slender, black cow and White Tail is a black cow with white tail-hair. They do not hang out with anyone else - it's just them and their calves. Sometimes they'll be standing twenty feet from their sub-group with their backs turned, snubbing the rest. When they get separated, they'll moo for hours, guiding the lost cow back to her small clan.

At the sanctuary, there are five cattle - Sadie, Howie, Nicholas, Summer and Freedom.They're a tight-knit group and I can't say they bear any grudges toward one another. Sadie is enamored with Howie and rarely leaves his side, while Nicholas, Summer and Freedom sometimes spend time frolicking away from the two older bovines. This is all besides the point, which is that I learned first-hand what a cow-grudge entails.

Every day, I like to go out and see Sadie. I've worked hard to build up a positive relationship with her, often around food. So I usually bring her an apple or two and tell her she is a Very Nice Cow while I brush her. I always make sure to pay attention to all the other cattle, because I love them too. But I rarely bring them apples. Yesterday, Howie had had enough. He would not talk to me at all. Every time I tried to scratch his big neck, he turned away. Panic!!

Mulling his behavior over, I decided to bring him an apple the next day. In fact, I brought out five apples, one for each cow. Sadie's eyes got real huge, thinking she had scored in the apple-eating department. As she scarfed down her apple, I approached Howie - he eyed me warily but stretched out his head to inspect the apple. Taking it gently in his mouth, he rolled it around and then he spit it back out at me. This seemed like an attempt at insulting my apple selecting abilities, so I let him taste-test each apple. He spit them all out. Fine, be that way. Nicholas got a Howie-spit drenched apple while Summer and Freedom thought the apples were a rather silly thing to try and eat. Sadie nudged me, demanding that I stop trying to share HER apples and give them to HER. So I did. Howie felt it was the opportune time to amble over, nearly crushing my foot, and demand attention. He let me scratch and brush him thoroughly. So I guess I was forgiven? I'm not sure, but I hope to remain in his good graces; being snubbed by a bovine buddy is no fun.


amberlopez said...

Thanks for sharing that. I LOVE reading about animal personalities and learning their way of life, temperament and likes/dislikes.


Mark Middleton said...

Reading this feels like hearing some news about two old friends. I know these individual cows. I haven't been out to volunteer in a long time. I miss them. Cows are kind, patient, beautiful individuals.

Vegan Girl (Roni Seabury) said...

Oh sweet Howie. Maybe you should bring him a cantaloupe next time :)