F I C T I O N Another in a continuing series of articles about what exactly animals and marine life are up to, that you always wanted to know.
We’ve all seen it. About an hour before sunset the cows come home. If we’re talking milk cows, they head for the barn because there’s food there and a place to get out of the wind. But what about cattle on open grazing land? Where are they heading? How do they spend their nights?
First of all, we’ve all heard the expression “herd mentality” and when it comes to cattle, there are always some dominant animals that decide where and when the herd moves. They are after all prey animals, so there’s safety in numbers. So after a hard day of grazing, cattle will seek out some lowland out of the wind and elements and find bedground for the night. You would be surprised at how much body heat an 1,800 pound cow can generate and they do have a whole lot of insulation, so I would not get too hung on whether or not they are cold. Ask a rancher in North Dakota how low the temperature has to get before a cow freezes.
There’s usually a lot of gossip about who saw what (Did you see that rusty old pick-up truck go by?), how much forage everyone had, and some of the goofy things the calves were up to that day. There is a lot of talk about the quality of the forage, so much like humans, cattle will drone on and on about where the best forage was, or complaining about the scarcity, or how long it took to chew cud.
Cattle are very social, so it’s not unusual for some of the better storytellers to break out a story that’s been handed down for generations for the listening pleasure of the rest of the herd. On some rare occasions, the herd will come across some Jimson weed and on those nights the cattle have a riproaring time getting high as kites (perhaps not the best comparison when you’re talking about an 1,800 pound animal) and having some really wicked hallucinations. If you’re wondering what kind of hallucination a cow might have, one of the most common ones is that a cow will think that the ear tag is some kind of radio controller that’s following every move the cow makes. Creepy yes, but not out of the realm of possibility.
So the next time you see cattle making their move around sunset, you’ll have a pretty good idea that the party is about to get started.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He’s written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.