So I knew when I started dating the Mister that he was interested in livestock animals – particularly cattle – and that he wanted to be a veterinarian. What I didn’t take into consideration, however, was the fact that this interest would lead to a life-long repeating conversation about the legitimacy of various types of cattle and how well they fit the definition of a “cow.” We’ve had this discussion countless times, and now several of his vet school friends have gotten in on it as well. I once published a blog article detailing my feelings on the topic (which, oddly enough, has been the most Google-searched and most popular article ever published on this blog), and for the benefit of certain vet school friends, I will resurrect it now.
(NOTE: I do, in fact, understand the difference between male and female cattle and between different types of breeds; I just continue the discussion to purposefully annoy my husband, because that’s what loving wives do. So for those vet students who tend to act like I couldn’t possibly understand anything about animals because I’m not taking your classes, I’m not stupid, I’m just a humor writer.)
Would the REAL Cows Please Stand Up? – originally published March 11, 2013
As a young child, I, like most other kindergarten-aged children, learned about farm animals. I learned that cows are white and black spotted. I learned that boy cows have horns and girl cows do not. I learned that boy cows get eaten while girl cows live to have baby cows. I also learned, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that cows say, “moo!”
These are cows.
But one shocking thing I have learned as part of my marriage is that everything I learned about cows is WRONG!
IT’S ALL LIES I TELL YOU! LIES!!
First of all, according to the Mister, I’m not supposed to call them “boy cows” and “girl cows.” I’m supposed to call them bulls (males who can make babies), steers (males who cannot make babies), heifers (females who have never had babies) and cows (females who have had babies). The term “baby cows” still seems to be ok, but I’m going to ignore all that for the time being and just address the more major issues at hand.
Falsehood number one: Cows are black and white spotted.
The picture above is not a cow. Or at least, it’s not a “normal,” common cow – in our area at least. That is a picture of a Holstein, a type of dairy cattle that is actually not seen very much anymore. (It’s also the Chick-Fil-A cow, which drives the Mister nuts because they are not meat cattle and therefore shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not people “eat mor chikin.”) What IS a “normal” cow? Stay tuned. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Falsehood number two: Boy cows have horns and girl cows do not.
Both male and female cows can have horns. That depends on breed, not gender. Oh, and girl cows don’t always give milk either.
Falsehood number three: Boy cows get eaten while girl cows live to have more baby cows.
Dairy cattle are dairy cattle (like the Chik-Fil-A cows), regardless of gender. We rarely eat them at all – even the boys. When it comes to meat cattle, we eat everything. No cow is safe. (Except maybe those that throw off enough rodeo riders. But those would be bulls anyway, not cows, so the statement stands.)
And, finally and most traumatically,
Falsehood number four: Cows say, “moo!”
Cows, as I am constantly being corrected, do not say, “moo.” The Mister insists that in all his time in the cattle pens at work he has never heard a cow say, “moo.” They in fact say something more along the lines of “blugh.” (Did you ever hear about Old McDonald’s cow that had a “blugh blugh” here and a “blugh blugh” there? No. I didn’t think so.)
So what IS a “normal” cow? Well, it turns out there are lots of kinds of cows, and practically none of them look like the “real” cows pictured above. Here are a few I have learned to identify since I got married. (And go argue with the Mister about whether or not these are real cows. I dare you. It doesn’t end well.)
Confused enough yet? Yeah. That makes a lot of us.
However, I, for one, will still teach my young children that cows say “moo;” regardless of how many times the Mister cringes.