AN URBAN BRAHMAN

A section of the Urban Herd has been joined by a new bull to sire future calves – a Brahman no less.

He was striding along the industrial road in the direction of the N2.

I mean really striding – at a pace that some of the cows with him were hard-pressed to keep up with. Look at the enormous hump above his shoulders and his characteristically light to dark grey coat.

His pronounced dewlap swung from side to side as this large animal strode along the edge of the road. This one is clearly not a pedigree, nonetheless as a member of the Brahman breed, he is a long way from home: Brahman cattle originated from the Bos indicus found in India. Brahman cattle were introduced as a commercial breed in South Africa in 1957, although the first of these cattle arrived here three years earlier. They are well adapted to climatic conditions in this country.

SOME COWS

Part of the Urban Herd has been around our suburb lately. These are a few of them outside my back gate:

As you can see the aloes on our pavement have not had much of a chance to grow as they keep getting munched. The red flowers are from the Erythrina caffra, which is now beginning to show a more dense leave cover. The tall spreading tree on the right is a Syringa, which is currently covered with bunches of berries.

Near our front gate is this cow. We call it the New Year Cow’s Calf’s Calf. This is because we know its grandmother – the New Year Cow – as well as its mother, the New Year Cow’s Calf. Sometimes we see all three together. The broad leaves in the foreground come from the Natal Fig in our garden; the tree in the ‘park’ in the background is a Brazilian Pepper; Cradock Road – leading into town from the hinterland – is behind it. A large herd of cattle that often roams the bushy hill, we call the Forest Cows. They also frequent what used to be a golf course.

This is one of those Forest Cows grazing on the edge of the golf course that was abandoned several years ago in favour of a new one created in a very fertile valley on the other side of town. This particular herd is characterised by the number of white animals in it.

Another of the Forest Cows on the old golf course, which is now a favourite place for dog walkers. The white bird is a Cattle Egret that hurried off as soon as I lifted my camera. It might be difficult to imagine golf being played on this area of land that nature is now reclaiming for its own. As you can see, the spiny thorns do not deter this cow from enjoying the spring-fresh leaves.

SUNSET COWS

A small section of a herd of cows blocked the road on my home at sunset yesterday.

They appeared to be gathering for the evening as some emerged from the veld on the right, while others had been walking along the verge on the left. There is no point trying to rush them for they pay scant attention to vehicles.

This one sports muddy socks, having come from the puddle of water you might see shining on the left, behind it. They all walked with a common purpose as if they knew where they were heading for.

This is an offspring of the Master Hooter’s sister striding along in the fading light. You can see the faint ‘rib’ patterns of the mother, featured below.

A clear view of the Master Hooter’s sister with the clear ‘rib’ patterns on her side. She sports impressive horns.

CHARACTERFUL COWS

Over the years the number of cattle making up what I call the Urban Herd has increased; they have split into several herds; sometimes wander off on their own or in smaller groups … one always has to be on the lookout for them. Looking further afield, one place where one wouldn’t usually expect to see a cow is on the beach – like this one in the Transkei:

A more usual place would be on a cattle farm, where this Bonsmara is eating grass whilst staring at me through the fence:

Closer to home, on the industrial road that bypasses the town, are these two calves apparently waiting for attention outside the Stock Theft Unit:

Next to the road leading into town from the industrial road and from the interior is the Bell Cow accompanied by Cattle Egrets. This is the only local cow we have seen here with a bell around its neck – hence its name – and we could often hear her at night. She has not been observed since 2019:

This cow appears to be engaged in conversation with a Cattle Egret whilst lying down in Currie Park – one of several parks in town that are no longer mowed by the municipality, presumably so that there will be grazing for whoever owns the cattle. Perhaps this is what the dispute is about:

Lastly, while driving up George Street, which will take one out of town on the other side, are two cows wandering down – perhaps to make a closer acquaintance with the diverse pleasures of urban hedges and unmown grass verges:

The Urban Herd is alive and well – and expanding rapidly!

MY SECRET GARDEN REVISITED

The drought has not been kind to my ‘secret’ garden, deliberately left ‘wild’ and undisturbed for the benefit of creatures either living there or finding shelter and sustenance. Several trees and shrubs have died, leaving open spaces and creating sunny spots. This is a view from it looking up the steps to the rest of the front garden.

Over the years the mulch made up of leaves, twigs – and Hadeda ibis droppings – has grown thick and spongy underfoot.

A dead fiddle-wood is kept company by a cluster of other trees growing straight up to reach the light. On the right are branches of another tree that has fallen down during the strong winds.

Behind them the Natal fig towers over everything, its base covered by clivias.

The lowing of cows (part of the Urban Herd) drew me to that spot this morning. These are only a few of many gathered on the verge of a main road leading into town. The curtain of foliage is courtesy of the fig tree.