It’s only recently that I have been lucky to count cows among my circle of acquaintances. One of the things I really wanted to know was what kind of emotional life they honestly have.
And, if you’ve been following this blog, I hope I have convinced you that cows do have an inner life. They form and sustain friendships, they play, they enjoy learning new things, appreciate novelty, harbor resentments and remember unpleasantness.
Cows definitely know their favorite people and without question show affection and extend friendship. Many eyes are watching me all the time as I go about my routine. Of course, the fact that I am the source of any and all handouts makes me more attractive in my cows’ eyes too.
Cows take immense pleasure in simple joys like a sunny fall day, plentiful spring grass, personal space, apples on the trees and a good, hard back scratch. And they obviously suffer anxiety, stress and depression when these pleasures are lacking.
Cows are also repetitive and predictable which is both a help and an annoyance. It’s an asset because they’re easily trainable, but oh my, can they try your last nerve when their rigidity jams up important farming business. Especially when you’re in a hurry.
We’re now on our third crop of calves and this year, for the first time, some of the steer are indistinguishable in both appearance and behavior. I have to admit I’m not completely sure which steer belongs to what cow.
Of course, every year one calf or another is a standout. Bling was a real character from day one and continues to crack me up nearly every day. Sally’s daughter Saralee is a perky, sweet and funny girl too. Our bull Rocco is personality packed and seems to have passed a certain liveliness on to all his calves. Ruby’s girl Rose is perky and pretty and has a really endearing way about her. Same for Sally’s Sammy – unusually cuddly and sweet. But oh, my; that Honey!
Honey was a pistol from Day One. She was born late, so she was really a munchkin compared to her pasture mates. Today, I’m not sure if she really is tiny or if it’s just by comparison to the others who are all older and similar in size.
No matter, being youngest and tiniest doesn’t slow Honey down one bit. She’s a mighty mite; clever, bold and bursting with head-shaking sassiness. Most calves are cautious and tentative to attempt new things. Not Honey; she jumps in first and with all four hooves. Honey figures things out lightening fast and is front and center for any new game or activity. Often it’s Honey leading the big girls instead of the other way around.
New straw in the shed? Honey knows all about it. New mineral block? Honey’s licked it. New bale of hay? Honey’s already got her head stuck in it. If there’s a tussle going on, Honey’s in the middle of it or at least running around the edges shaking her head and throwing in the last kick when nobody’s looking.
The other calves don’t want to play? Honey’s not taking no for an answer. She gives a few good head butts to her napping friend until it’s clear that nap is not going to happen. Slowly, they get up and give her a chase half-hearted though it may be.
But, her funniest game is one that I’ll probably never be able to get on film. I use a quad to do lots of my daily pasture chores, and the cows are all taken with it for some reason. But Honey’s taken her interest one step further; Honey is a world-class quad chaser. She’ll literally run right beside me, flatten out and stretch her stride like a Thoroughbred; neck and neck. She actually looks me straight in the eye and sometimes she tries to cut in front to block me.
She’s not the first to think up the idea, but she has taken the sport to new heights. She’s sumpin’…