Sunday, May 13, 2018

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy (revisited)


By Julie Carter

We apparently have very normal and perhaps boring cows here in this part of the world. You know, ones that just say "moo" and not "yo quiero Taco Bell?"

Within five days of each other, two reports of "animal peculiarity" about cows hit international news.

Cows with accents

A group of British herdsmen reported that their cows have regional accents - mooing with different drawls consistent with the regional accents of their owners. While phonetics experts say the idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds, I began trying to recall any regional sounds to the mooing of the cattle I've heard.

I feel certain there was not a southern drawl in the bunch of all the thousands of yearlings I've heard bellering as they unloaded off trucks from Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. They had come to the high country for a summer of fattening. They might have looked a little funny but seemed to speak our language.

British experts attribute the accents to peer groups, saying the cows' accents could result from spending time with farmers with differing accents. Here in the west cattle learn to speak windmill and feed truck, both offering survival necessities. But the true equalizer that crosses all language barriers with cattle is a nylon catch-rope in the hands of an able cowboy.

No cow hugging

The Swiss have laid down the law to hikers and outdoorsman - Keep your distance. Avoid eye contact. And even if it looks cute, never hug a Swiss cow.

Responding to numerous "reports of unpleasant meetings between hikers and cattle" along the Alpine trails, the Swiss Hiking Federation laid down a few ground rules.

"Leave the animals in peace and do not touch them. Never caress a calf. Do not wave sticks."

Is it not distressing that we have digressed to a people that need to be told not to hug a cow?

Even more entertaining than this little news clip was the blog of "cow" stories that followed it.

One purveyor of tall tales said he lived in Texas (of course) with specially bred cows that if you punched them in the nose just right, they would stop charging. He called himself an authentic Texas cowpuncher.

A lady from rural area in Virginia said she spent a day in the pasture behind her home playing with the cows and related to them on a metaphysical level not known to us average carnivores. She said she never ate beef again.

Tying all this together was the advice from a rancher who runs his cattle on open range. He concurred that bovines can be unpredictable and strange.

His advice was for minimal contact but if a person insisted on being friendly with the cows, he suggested that in his area of Northern California the cattle prefer to be spoken to in Spanish. He surmised that Swiss cows probably didn't like American English language and would respond better to German or French.

I'm not a big advocate of learning a foreign language just so I can communicate in my own country. I think the cattle just need to learn to speak the drawl of the West that goes something like "get your sorry hide through the gate and don't run off and leave that calf!"

© Julie Carter 2006

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