SOME URBAN HERD CHARACTERS

We see these cattle around the suburbs so often that we have given some of them names. I may have introduced you to the Master Hooter before. Several years ago, when there was still a little water in the dam below our home, we heard her calling to the rest of the herd as she stood ankle-deep in the water. Later sightings made it clear that she was the leader of the pack.

Here she is with her latest calf – one of many she has birthed over the years. Look carefully and you will realise there is a similarity in the pattern of their hides. This has made it easy for us to recognise some of the kinship lines.

You may also have met her sister before: we call her Rib Cow because of the pattern on her hide:

We have watched these two growing up together.

A cow of a completely different colour is the New Year Cow, so named because we first saw her as a youngster on a New Year’s Day:

She is a carbon copy of her father and so far all of her offspring have sported a white flash on the forehead.

The Mud-Spattered Cow has also been around for a long time:

Here she is grazing outside my back gate – her twin calves in tow.

We mostly see cows. I suspect the bulls are taken away to be sold when they are old enough as only a few remain to sire the next lot of calves. One of the ‘remaining’ bulls we call the Fancy Garden Gate Bull, partly because of his attractive pattern and partly because the first time we saw him he was stuck in a garden behind a rather ornate automatic gate:

One of the bulls that didn’t stay around for long was named New Brahman because the first Brahman bull we had seen several years before disappeared as soon as he matured. Although we thought this was a different one, we nonetheless checked the photographs I had taken. They were definitely different.

This one disappeared after only three months.

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41 thoughts on “SOME URBAN HERD CHARACTERS

    • Cows are de-horned on pucker dairy farms and so are the bulls on some of the beef farms I pass regularly. These cattle come from what can only be called the informal sector and are allowed to roam free by their owners. We occasionally see them being gathered by a herdsman – for what purpose or where to is not always clear.

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    • I too was taught to be wary of bulls when I was a child – although my father usually only kept one bull at a time. The cattle come from the informal farming sector: they are not kept in camps and I even wonder if they are ever inoculated; they give birth wherever they happen to be and largely fend for themselves.

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  1. great mother-and-child shot! 🐮🐄

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    • I have never really thought about that: perhaps we have all become so used to each other that we don’t think about it. Generally though, if one approaches too close to these animals, they tend to move away. Donkeys on the other hand mostly enjoy being rubbed.

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  2. I’ve never seen cows wonder around freely like that before. Growing up in a rural area, I’ve always been taught to be very wary of cows with calves as they could trample you if they get an inkling you could be a threat to their calf.

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    • You are absolutely right – we were taught the same when my father had cattle on our farm. These ones, however, roam throughout the suburbs where we live – it is said that some of their owners run the municipality. That, however is a political and cultural story that does not belong here. Suffice it to say that many years ago we resented their presence, were concerned about the safety of people and pets, were worried about possible traffic accidents, and were unhappy about the damage they caused to gardens. We have had to learn to live with them and now I have come to appreciate their different patterns, I track their offspring through such patterns, and put my hazard lights on if they are in the road … this is South Africa.

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    • They are indeed a handsome lot. While the increase in free-roaming cattle is concerning, they are here to stay and so I now seek pleasure in the beauty of some of them.

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    • This is a difficult concept to grasp – cattle only began moving into our suburbs after 1994 [you can check out the significance of that date] and the numbers increase annually. There is nought we can do about it – early protests fell on deaf ears – and so we have had to embrace this unusual aspect of suburban living.

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    • Watch out, Dries: there is a substantial herd of rather large goats that hangs around the fringes of the CBD now – in addition to the many donkeys roaming free. We are a real country town now – sometimes we joke that potholes deliberately don’t get fixed because they provide drinking spots!

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