A few folks have heard me tell this story before, and in my usual fashion I often make light about it, but I would be a liar indeed if I said it wasn’t one of the most frightening experiences in my life – this from someone who has worked with predators ranging from and certainly not limited to wolves and sixteen foot pythons, alligators and big cats. A hefty resume, though no doubt a lot of people would not approve of the situations I was in, especially in today’s world – and I did not always escape unscathed. Regardless, I survived all those encounters, but for all that, it was the domesticated cow that nearly put an end to me.
Isn’t he cute? When I met Charlie and Brownie, they were just tiny little bottle calves. They came to the dairy not long after I started working there more regularly (still commuting from our previous home), and I was delighted to assist in their feeding and watch them play. Both were very friendly and liked to be petted and would slobber all over your clothes. A true delight. Both were castrated and dehorned.
After the fire, we moved to the dairy and settled ourselves into the routine right away. Charlie and Brownie had gotten much larger, but still remained with the goat herd, comfortably lying among the does in the barn. They did not exhibit any inappropriate behavior and I quite enjoyed having them around. Yes, they were destined for the freezer from the beginning, but I am not one of those people who cannot coddle and make much of an animal before its ultimate destiny arrives.
But I was about to be reminded that cattle are incredible dangerous animals, responsible for multiple deaths a year just in the United States.
I could have shared that fate, if it wasn’t for Ana.
After the fire took our house and our pets, I could not bear being lonely when Steven (my husband) was at work. I was not accustomed to walking around a farm on my own, so it was a very brief time before Ana joined our lives. Her slightly smaller size meant she wasn’t suitable for the show ring in South Africa she was originally headed for, so her breeder was happy to place her with us, to help heal our hearts.
I had no clue she would turn out to be such a fabulous farm dog. Not only did she immediately prove herself a proficient ratter, she was comfortable with all the farm animals and had a high drive to learn to assist in any chore I asked.
We had only been together a few weeks, and this was one of the first weeks I had begun to allow her to accompany me with a bit more freedom (no leash, not constantly supervised) while I made my rounds, checking water and visiting with the stock.
While in the barn, I was checking the hay feeders when Brownie, my favorite calf, came over. I rubbed his head like I always did, and completely distracted, made no notice of his more aggressive bunting and postering. Many people will say there is no sign of an attack before it comes, but I know that I made a very real mistake in not being more aware of his behavior. It’s extremely easy to become complacent, even around animals that weigh three times or more what you do.
As soon as my back was turned, Brownie took a step back and then hit me with his head directly in the back of my ribcage, knocking the breath out of me. Once he had me on the ground, he went almost to his knees to smash his head against me, throwing it back and forth as if to gore me with the horns he no longer had. The weight of him alone however was more than capable of finishing the job he had started.
It’s amazing how clear one’s mind can be during these situations. I knew that I was in trouble, and I knew that if I didn’t get up, I could get badly hurt here, or possibly killed. I remember thinking how ironic it would be, for all that had just happened, that now I would be killed in the barn by a filthy cow.
I went for his eyes, desperate to dig my fingers into them. Any chance to get him to back up long enough to get away. I could hear his breathing and the rustle of his hooves in the hay, but nothing else.
Then Ana was there, screaming her very distinct scream right in his face. Snarling like an Anatolian Shepherd, she went so far as to step on and over my body to bite him in the face. It was enough to make the steer shy away, and I took that chance to bolt for the gate.
I slammed it behind me, turning in time to stare straight into Brownie’s wide brown eyes on the other side. Ana darted beneath a different gate and rejoined me, tongue lolling out like we had just played an amusing game.
My husband by chance called me at that time, which I’m sure was a unpleasant experience – no one wants to hear how their spouse was nearly just murdered by a bovine, but I can surely bet the shaky story as it spilled out over the phone ensured his affection for our new family member would only double in size.
It just goes to show – you don’t need a great deal of size and strength to carry a bold heart.