The animal world never ceases to amaze me.
The domestic cow is a fierce defender of her offspring and will fight to her death trying to protect her young from anything, including bears, wolves and cougars. Oh yeah, and ranchers trying to give their calves a shot. However, we keep our cows gentle enough that they don’t mind us poking around too much.
Even so, about once a year we have to interact with an unfamiliar herd like when we are out on the neighbor’s property regulating irrigation water boxes. Don’t get me wrong the neighbors have great cows, which are also gentle… for them, but with us, not so much… And it probably doesn’t help the situation that we usually have our dog “Puddin’ Head” with us.
The neighbors have timbered acres that their cattle graze and when my husband and I climb the fence with the dog in tow and seemingly — to them — appear out of nowhere from behind some trees and bushes, they get a little nervous, especially when their calves are young and vulnerable.
Once a cow charged me, and with nothing to hide behind or a nearby fence to hop over, I jumped up and down and flayed my arms and tried to roar – seriously I was thinking I needed to sound loud and ferocious like Simba on the “Lion King.” And it worked! The cow slid to a stop a few feet from me and fell down laughing so hard she forgot all about me being a possible threat to her offspring.
Anyway, one thing I noticed when this cow charged me is that all of the other cows were getting excited, rounding up the kids and preparing for action or a fight, whatever was needed. They were bellowing and stomping their feet and gathering like early pioneers circling the wagons.
And then there was a bull… A big 2,000+ pound magnificent beast with muscles the bovine equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. One powerful head butt and any
predator would be toast!
But, while all of the cows were preparing for a fight, the mighty bull was just lying in the shade chewing his cud, looking bored by the whole display of females going into action to save their babies. It was obvious he wasn’t going to lift a hoof or anything else to help.
I asked my husband, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Of course it looked normal to him, so I pointed out the obvious problem. “All of the women folk are protecting the herd and that lazy good for nothing sissy of a bull is not doing anything!”
Well, my husband pointed out, rather smugly I might add, that a bull has to conserve his energy to fight other bulls that try to take the herd away from him, so essentially they are protecting the herd by keeping rested enough to put up a good fight if a neighboring bull tries to take over his cow harem. “And he’s not a sissy!” my husband said emphatically.
“Doesn’t that seem kind of self serving?” I ask. “I’m no expert, but I have observed the cows over the years and they really don’t seem to mind if another bull joins or even takes over the herd.”
“That’s not the point,” he said. “The bulls have to protect their women.”
“From what, a younger good-looking bull with romance on his mind? Doesn’t seem like something they would need to be protected from.”
For that remark I got the dreaded stink eye… .