I was browsing through some old pictures tonight. Well, old is a relative term. These were from January 19 of this year. It was snowy (I am so not ready for winter!), and I remember that Otis and Petey were let out to run around for the first time since they’d gotten to the sanctuary. Crazy little babies they were! And of course I snapped as many pictures as I could. Tucked away in that set were a few pictures with one of the cows.
Here’s the thing about cows. They are often assumed to be sort of stupid. The reality is that they are intensely curious about others. They don’t tend to react quickly, especially when compared to most of the other, smaller, animals we’re surrounded by, but it is our failing that we tend to take the different speed to be an indicator of relative intelligence. Or of anything at all.
Mostly we have no clue.
But these cows…whenever there is something or someone new, you can count on the cows to be right there, checking things out.
And this is harder to put into words adequately, but their curiosity and attention in these situations is focused outward. When my cat is intensely interested in something, it is because she wants to capture it, and likely kill it and eat it. Even if it is a twist tie, that’s generally still her relationship to whatever is sparking her curiosity. Humans don’t seem to be much different, at least not the average human.
Cows are different, at least the cows I have gotten to know. They don’t have these hierarchies that exist in most other animals. They mostly stay together, but they don’t always. There’s no one leader, they are just somehow a group of individuals that have formed a community. They are a collective.
And something about that kind of social network makes them more focused on others than on self. Or that is my theory.
That’s what comes through when you see them watching, fascinated, as baby pigs run around outside for the first time, checking everything out and running with absolute glee through the inch of snow on the ground. That’s what you notice when you see a giant cow delicately following the antic-filled lead of a baby pig.
Cows aren’t stupid. They’re not placid. And though one of my coworkers claims that cows don’t want to live, he is wrong.