October 13, 2016

Fear the Cow! Or Not.

Instead of boring you to death with a lecture on bovine behaviour and complaining how people often get cow language so wrong and convoluted, I thought I'd share some "cow attack" videos here and do my best to explain them: What went wrong, why, and what the people involved could have done to make things better for both them and the filmed "attack" cattle.

But I'll save the best for the last: Crazy Jersey bulls!!

Note: I'm not posting videos of Spanish Fighting cattle being run through the streets of Mexico, Spain or Portugal (or any other Spanish-rooted cities where bull fighting is a ceremonial tradition) and mauling people. Ain't no explanation for those videos except genetic selection and learned behaviour to make them super aggressive to anything that moves: people especially.

Video 1: "Cow Attack"

In this video, it's pretty obvious that the big Holstein cow that is 10 times the girl's size has no intention of harming her. Rather, she's more interested in what new smells are in the room than the girl getting all worked up about the cow "invading" her space.

What's also obvious is that the girl has never been around cows before, and should not have moved behind the door. If the cow had been any bigger or even leaned against the door, she could've been crushed pretty bad. The cow would not have meant for it to happen, but this is a 1600 lb beast we're seeing here.

Video 2: "Mad Cow Attack (extended cut)"

I find this video particularly amusing for several reasons:
  1. The herd was riled up already with the arrival of new strangers, and both curious and quite excited. 
  2. The two boys think these are female cows--they're not.
  3. The "one cow" was crazy--he wasn't.
  4. That first "greeting" then taunting them was going to do any good--it didn't.
  5. They ran away instead of standing their ground.
  6. The sparsely treed area would somehow "protect" them from the "cow" chasing them--it didn't.
  7. Again, running away and screaming like little girls just made the "cow" chasing them even more excited.
The comments were also amusing. Some people were saying these were cows, others bulls, but after studying this video I can conclude that these pesky bovines were steers. End of discussion. 

Now, these two young "men" were already quite anxious, scared, tense, and assuming something bad will happen to them, which it did. There's a saying by Bud Williams and even Dr. Murphy with Murphy's Law, that if you think something bad is going to happen, chances are it will or already has; and anything bad that can happen will happen, respectively.  Essentially those boys created their own mess because they were scared, and the cattle sensed it and mirrored it to perfection. If those boys were much calmer and had no fear, we would've seen a much different scene. 

Backing off and running away didn't help matters either. There's "advice" on the internet that says when you encounter a cow, back off or walk away. This does not help. When cattle are already accustomed to following a person on foot because they have been taught that they will get something to eat, a stranger doing the same thing will just encourage them to follow. Instead, stand your ground, make yourself look big, and stay there for as long as needed until they lose interest and move away. Or, if one gets a bit bouncy and wants to play, don't take that as a sign to run away, instead get loud, fearless and aggressive and charge at them. I have personally done this on many occasions with good results. 

At the very beginning, one of them asks, "Why are they coming closer to us?" and the other says, "[They think] we're gonna feed [them]." Which is absolutely correct. The other reason is that they are curious. I've had steers come up to me when I get out in their pasture all the time and it's both because they think I have treats and they're just wanting to see what I'm up to. 

That, in itself, is nothing to be afraid of. 

But, because these boys have no clue about cow behaviour or psychology and were being a couple of bumbling idiots looking for trouble, they got what they came for. And the black Pinzgauer-cross steer delivered beautifully. 

Video 3: "Terrifying footage of a cow attack on a busy bridleway"

With the terrified man shouting his throat hoarse and that damned dog running free, it's no wonder those cows were riled up. 

But scientists are needed to to figure out a "theory" as to why people walking dogs are more prone to attacks from cows. Seriously?! I think it's pretty obvious as to why! 

First of all, it's no "theory" that cows are hard-wired, like other wild ungulate cousins, to have strong maternal instincts enough to feel the need to protect their young. In order to survive in the wild, and even in domestic settings where people do not have control of everything all the time, females must protect their young in order to ensure these young survive and are able to procreate; all this to ensure the survival of the species. If it means pounding the heck out of a dumb dog, so be it. 

Second, these scientists are not exactly right in that owners are trying to protect their dog from the ferocious cows, though that may be part of the reason. Rather, dogs see their human caretakers as objects of protection and shelter, so they will run to these humans to hide when a herd of cattle is trying to take it out. This is why I do not wholly agree with the suggestion that, when walking dogs out in a public pathway with cattle on it, to have a dog off-leash. This gives dogs the excuse to go harass livestock, and also to come running to their humans for protection. Though it indeed may give a dog the ability to escape and take the cows' focus off of you, that dog can and will run to you for protection if it feels the need to. And, not all dogs can outrun cattle!! 

So, if you have a dog, stay the hell out of where cows are. Better for both you and the dog.

Video 4: "Charged by Cows"

This video requires a quick and simple explanation:

The person filming was in no danger. These cows more than likely where curious about her and thought she had treats for them. They walked and started running because she was moving away from them, which she shouldn't have done. Even when there were calves with them. 

Video 5: "The cows are following me. Silly cows."

Silly cows indeed. You can hear that the videographer has a dog with them, which is most likely why those cows--heifers more like--where following the pair. 

Cute video.

Video 6: "Crazy Jersey Bull"

Let this be a lesson to you all: Jersey bulls ARE crazy. They're super aggressive, they'll attack anything that they think is a threat to their harem, and are nothing to be messing around with nor to trust. Legitimately, Jersey bulls are to be feared and never trusted. I personally do not like dairy bulls at all.

Why are they so wicked? Two things: As calves, they're typically raised on the bottle by humans, so they become quite accustomed to humans and fearless around humans. So when they get older, they don't see humans so much as a "predatory threat," as "part of the herd," so to speak. Second, genetics are at play here. Because Jersey cows have been selected for excellent milk and lots of it, femininity, and more milk production, unconsciously the selection for testosterone-hyped, super-masculine bulls has also resulted. Jersey bulls don't look as masculine as many beef bulls, but their behaviour is 10x more macho-male-bovine than most beef bulls. Which makes them much more protective, more sexually active (I would think), and more prone to see just about anything that moves as rival to their harem. All of that is part and parcel of what makes them so bloody dangerous.

There's no doubt that cattle are big, strong, fast, and smarter than we think. They deserve the utmost respect and admiration, but in many situations they shouldn't be feared simply because they're so big. There are things people can learn about cattle, if only they would let the animals teach them. 
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