I am a Limousin cow. Humans describe Limousin cows as “beef cattle”, and speak of us in terms of weight. They don’t realize, or care, that we are also incredibly smart. At least, some of us are. :C)
I was born 1990 and was one of many calves born that year. I don’t talk much about those years, but I will mention that I had a brief romance, had a calf, and that calf was eventually taken away from me.
Living conditions back then were pretty poor. We had fields to graze in and they were adequate. But we also had to stand in corrals that were deep with mud and dung. Year long we had to deal with those conditions. We also had to deal with the angry farmers, who used electric prods on us, yelled at us, and treated us like we were objects instead of living and breathing creatures. I was afraid of the farmers… we all were. Some cows resigned themselves to this bleak existence and harsh treatment. Others, like me, longed for more. I used to dream of a warm bed to sleep on, lots of good food, and green fields to graze and romp in.
One day I found a hole in the fence and walked through the hole. Suddenly I was on the other side. I called to the other cows to come and join me. Here was our chance for freedom. They looked at me, but refused to walk through the hole. They were afraid and kept telling me to come back. I turned away from them and grazed a while on the other side of the fence. No one came to force me back in. As the herd moved away from the fence I too moved away, but in the opposite direction. I saw my chance for freedom, and I took it. The forest ahead beckoned and I followed.
In the woods I found grasses to eat, leaves off branches, and corn on the cob still standing in the field. Whenever I thought someone was in the woods I would hide like the deer did. I was afraid, all by myself, but I couldn’t go back. Not now. And I didn’t know where to go that was safe. So I stayed in the woods. As winter came, and the grasses became scarce, I lived on harvested corn stalks, fallen corn, fallen leaves and whatever bits of grass that was hidden under the leaves. I drank from the stream as the deer did, and at night I went deep into the woods, protected from the winter winds by the dense forest, but still cold. And lonely.
The spring brought new grasses and I grazed ravenously. My coat was all matted and I’d lost a lot of weight. But I was still alive! No one had come to find me. In a way that was kind of sad, that they didn’t care enough to look for me. Still, I was free… a free cow! I felt excited, and terrified. Where would I go? Could I stay in the forest and not be seen? Every car that passed, every human voice, sent me into hiding.
One day some humans were clearing brush from the roadside. After they left, I went over to eat some leaves off the branches they had cut. I browsed up onto the road and across into a lane. I would have turned back, but some humans were on the road watching me, and they started walking behind me, so I kept walking forward. I was scared now, because I was visible and had only one path to go…forward, toward the house. The humans closed a gate behind me, trapping me in the lane. I wandered up toward the house and heard voices inside so I turned around and walked into the field. Maybe I could get out from there. I looked but there were no holes in the fence. There was, however, a huge field of the most amazing pasture. This place had horses in the other pasture! I watched them for a bit and they watched me. They looked very plump and content. One of the horses came close to the fence and asked me where I was from. Cautiously I explained what had happened, and she paused for a moment, looking intently at me. Her name was Raffles, she said, and I was welcome to live in that field if I wanted. She was sure the humans would not send me away. She returned to the other horses and they went on grazing. I began to graze too.
Eventually three humans came out of the house and watched me in the field. I watched them from a safe distance but they made no moves towards me. They closed another gate and I was left to graze in the field. Every time a car would go by, however, I would lay down in the tall grasses, hoping it was not the farmer coming to take me back.
One day the new people brought building material into the field. I watched with curiosity as they built me a shed. I came up to inspect it, but stopped just short of them. I wasn’t sure what they would do, and they, apparently, were unsure of me too! I leaped around, tossed my head up and down, snorting, and pawed the ground… I call it my cow shuffle. They watched, nervously, but didn’t make any aggressive gestures towards me. I let them continue building as I meandered around, watching my new house being constructed.
From then on they provided me with water, hay, and all the pasture I could eat. They also gave me apples! I adore apples, and they always had a couple for me whenever they came out to check on me. They did check on me a lot, talking to me quietly, and telling me they were happy I was here. In the winter they brought me into the barn, gave me a bed of dry shavings to lay on, and food to eat. A few years after that, when my weight dropped over the winter because I was having difficulty chewing the hay, they started giving me sweet feed and bran, with apples and carrots, and pumpkins and squash!
I’m not a young heifer anymore, and the years have taken their toll on my body, mainly my leg. I don’t leap around and do my cow shuffle anymore, but I do occasionally still paw the ground, digging in the dirt, rubbing my face in the dirt, and tossing my head about. I am still spirited! Instead of making me walk down the lane to the field, they have given me areas closer to the barn to graze in, allowing me to wander as I please, laying down in my favourite spots to chew cud or snooze in the sun.
The last two summers I’ve even had my very own pumpkin patch! What cow can boast that!
The horses and goats that used to share this farm have all gone now, passed away. No one hauled them off to slaughter, like at the other farm. When they passed away, I saw the people here wiping tears as they said goodbye to their animal friends.
I am a spiritual cow, as all animals are, and I know I was lead here by a gentle divine hand. I am grateful. I do wish I could get over my deep fear, and let them touch me more, but they don’t seem to mind, happily giving me a brief pat while I eat, or a quick pat as they hand me an apple. They respect my space. Nor have they hurt me, and that is such a relief. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely comfortable with humans, but I do feel content here, and have no plans to ever leave. Mine is a good life now. :C)
Author Note: Bella passed away 23rd May, 2013, three days short of her 14th anniversary with us. She was 19 years old, and passed on her own, without vet intervention, in her pasture, near her favourite siesta spot. She is deeply missed.