Tag Archives: cow behavior

Guess What We Found On Leaving Our Ranch Recently?

The other morning Trudy and I spotted something unrecognizable on the cattle guard at the edge of our ranch. Approaching closer I could tell it was a newborn calf, actually a Longhorn/Charolais cross. The poor little heifer had all four legs stuck between the pipes of the cattle guard and was totally helpless as she lay across the pipes.

The calf a week later doing well in the pasture

One surprising thing about a Longhorn calf is how quickly they stand up as opposed to other types of calves. This little heifer apparently stood up while its mother was down pasture grazing, wandered to a nearby cattle guard, and slipped and had ts legs plunge through it.

Trudy and I jumped out of the car and working together pulled the calf’s legs out from between the bars and carried it to the nearby grass. There we stood it up and encouraged it to move down the pasture to where its mother grazed. She saw us coming and raced to her calf. When last we saw the calf, it was chowing down at the milk bar.

The proud mother with calf by her side

The proud daddy, a Charolais bull

The calf has done well ever since. Let’s just hope it has good one trial learning when it comes to why cattle guards  are there in the first place. I did notice a few days later when we vaccinated her for blackleg that she didn’t seem at all afraid of me. Might she have been appreciative or at least remember me? I’ll never know. Turned out to be a pretty good excuse, though, as to why we were running late for Sunday School.

A Backward Glance–Part 2 by Paul Hayes, Guest Blogger

This is Part 2 of the piece written by Paul Hayes. Paul, like me, always had a hankering to be a cowboy but first had to have a paying job to afford to do so. For Paul it was a successful career as a land man for Marathon Oil and for me, a career in Neurology. It was worth waiting for!– Tom Hutton

Two Longhorn cows and calf

Two Longhorn cows and calf

Paul Hayes wrote the following:


While we didn’t have any horses or cows ourselves, we lived on a dirt road at the edge of a very small town. So farm animals were all around me. In fact, the family of one of my best buddies, Bobby White (I think he was named after a quail), had a farm just down the road, and they had lots of animals. One day, while playin’ at Bobby’s place, he came up with an idea for the ages. He thought it would be a really great idea if we went and roped a cow. “heck, yes” I exclaimed with enthusiasm. Did I mention that I was the brainy one in my group of friends?

We dashed out to their barn. Remember, if it weren’t worth runnin’ to, then it weren’t worth doin’. Bobby climbed up on a horse stall and pulled a rather stiff rope down from a rusty ol’ nail on the barn wall. He jumped down into a cloud of dust and we proceeded to the pasture.

Now, bein’ the smart boys that we were, we picked a young cow are our first target. Bobby had growed up on the family farm and actually knew how to rope. Not livin’ on a farm myself, the only rope that I had knowed was fer jumpin’. We walked as close as we could get to our victim, and Bobby took his stance. He swung that rope around a few times and throwed it in the direction of that cow. Much to my amazement, and Bobby’s too I suspect, the lasso went over that cows head. As the cow jumped, the rope tightened. Bobby screamed for me to help and I grabbed aholt of that rope. We dug our heels in as far as we could and pulled with all the might that two boys of six years of age could muster. After a few harrowin’ seconds, the cow calmed herself and all seemed quiet.

But, the really fun part started with my next question. “Well, that was excitin’. Now what do we do?” After a few brief seconds of thought, which, as luck would have it, was not sufficient time to come up with a reasonable plan, Bobby said that, while one of us holds the rope, the other will crawl under the cow. Yep, you heard me right. Again, what six-year-old boy wouldn’t want to have that on his resume. Since there were only two of us, and since Bobby was already holdin’ on to the rope, he said I could go first. With not nearly the hesitancy of my first horse ride, I willfully got down on the ground next to the small cow. As I approached, I saw the rope tighten and I saw Bobby dig in for whatever might come. Wantin’ a good view of the excitement, I got on my back and began scootin’ along the ground under the cow. I am directly under the cow when I discovered that a six-year-old boy does not possess the strength to hold even a small cow in place. The cow jumped, kicked like a mule and then ran out into the pasture – rope draggin’ behind. I, on the other hand, laid breathless on the ground with hoof prints on the portion of my white Sears tee shirt that covered the center of my chest.

I had followed up my horse lesson with an equally successful lesson about cows. I am not certain, but I may have been rethinkin’ this cowboy thang at this juncture.


Paul Dennis Harris was a boy who lived across the pasture from my house. He was a year older’n me so I, quite naturally, believed that everythang he said was as gospel as Sunday preachin’. I would come to learn that there are two voices that we hear in our lives, one is the voice of God, the other is the voice of Paul Dennis Harris. On this particular day, as I peered out the kitchen winder, I could see Paul Dennis over in the pasture playin’ with somethin’. I just couldn’t see what it was. That situation required a prompt investigation. As I approached, Paul Dennis displayed a pistol that he told me his grandpa said he could play with. I later doubted that the ol’ man, not havin’ been afflicted with brain damage to the best of my knowledge, knew anythang about the pistol caper. At six years of age, I knew nuthin’ ‘bout guns, includin’ the fact that they could lift a boy’s skull from his head if pointed in the wrong direction.

I have no idea what the caliber of the gun was. But it was heavy, and it was real. Paul Dennis suggested that we shoot a target, so he proceeded to set a coke bottle on top of a fence post. While I knew that that coke bottle was worth three cents down at the local grocery store, I was willin’ to forego that income for a new experience. Bein’ the nice guy that he was, he even said that I could shoot first.

Are you hearin’ a repeatin’ theme in these stories?

Well, by this time, bravery was my middle name, and I happily accepted the offer. He loaded the revolver with six bullets – five more, as it would turn out, than I would need to complete the experience. He then handed me the gun, stood back and covered his ears.

I’m six years old. I have no idea how to use a gun. Ne’ertheless, I took the pistol in my hand and held it up to my cheek just below my right eye. Takin’ good aim at that bottle, I slowly pulled the trigger. I am not certain what hurt worse, the powder burn on my cheek, the damage to my eardrums or the butt beatin’ I got from my dad when he found out. I immediately dropped the gun to the ground and ran home cryin’ like a cat in a rockin’ chair factory.

I learnt a hard lesson that day from the likes of Paul Dennis Harris. Age, as it turns out, does not necessarily equate to wisdom.


Though I survived the age of six, my parents decided to move to Dallas before I could learn any more lessons about life in a small country town. I became a city boy whose only exposure to cowboys from that point on were the ones who played football on Sundays. Now, at the age of 56, I find myself living back in the country. However, it is safe to say that I will live my life as a cowboy vicariously through you.

Thanks for your contribution to my longevity.


Update to “Generosity Begins At Home”

Some time ago I wrote about a mama cow adopting a calf despite having her own hungry offspring. I had never before seen this occur and have learned it is very unusual behavior. Thought an update to this curiosity was needed.

The mama cow, bless her generous heart and sizable milk bag, continued to nurse both calves until they were yearlings. The calves grew into big, strong steers. I was proud when time came last week to take them to the auction barn. (Yes, I know what you may be thinking. Taking the grown calves to the auction barn is only a preliminary for 3-6 months at a feedlot and then a slaughterhouse. This is true enough. Yet, we need to remember how most of us enjoy a well marbled steak or a juicy burger. The animals are raised just for this reason not being, in any way, an endangered species.)

In any event I admired the two good looking steers when I dropped them off at the auction house. I also said a silent thank you that day to the giving mama cow. The result of this transaction; however, turned out to be surprising.

The first pleasant surprise was that I obtained the best price ever for the two steers. Several days later a second surprise occurred. A package arrived in the mail. In it was a a really fancy knife sharpener with a small plaque on it, notifying me that I had won the “top steers award.”

Imagine that: a calf that would have ended up a runt after losing his mama had instead been adopted by a generous mama cow. The two steers became the top steers at an auction last week of somewhere around 1000 head of beef. So as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Does Size Really Make A Difference?

The other evening I viewed a thrilling clip of the beginning of a cattle drive. It was an exciting scene- the beginning of a long drive portending inevitable drama up the trail. The initiation of the drive was full of cowboy yelling, waving of hats, brandishing of ropes, and kicking up of dust as riders on their horses cut back and forth behind a slow to move herd.

Several days later I witnessed an interaction between my cows and horses that gave me a slightly different perspective on this seminal moment in a cattle drive and suggested the true motivation for the cattle to head out. It played out this way:

Because of diminishing pasture this time of year (late February), the cattle and our two horses share a pasture. This is something I try to avoid in deference to the horses,  because the cattle make such a mess.

I scooped horse pellets into the horse trough. Several cows and the bull, sensing an extra feeding opportunity, hurried to the trough and began to chow down. I was singularly unsuccessful in running them off or protecting the horses’ rations. I waved my arms and bellowed threateningly at the cattle but to no avail. They basically ignored me.

Not long thereafter the horses arrived. The horses quickly went to work intimidating the cows and bull and ran them away from the trough. The horses did this by prancing, snorting and throwing their heads. All this acting out seemed to frighten the cattle. Now keep in mind the bull weighs well over 2000 pounds and the horses in the 900-1100 range. Shouldn’t size make a difference here?

Our paint horse Fancy and Doc's nose

Our paint horse Fancy and Doc’s nose

The takeaway message for me is this; horses for whatever reason dominate cattle. I suppose it is a “pecking order” of long evolutionary standing.

Now I suspect the cowboys’ waving of hats and yelling in the film played a limited role in herding the cattle. The horses underneath the cowboys likely provided the major motivation for the cattle to stop grazing, turn around,

Curly, our Charolais bull

Curly, our Charolais bull


Now does Doc really look that scary?

and begin moving toward the long, dusty cow trail.