Going Whole Hog for the 'Complete Cow'

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The Complete Cow: An Udderly Entertaining History of Dairy & Beef Cows of the World (1998) by Sara Rath

My brother and I used to joke about how easy it must have been for early man to hunt cows, and how grateful ancient people must have been for such an animal.

Imagine you're starving in the wilderness, gathering what fruit you can find, just barely getting by. Suddenly you turn a corner in the forest, and in a clearing you see a big fat sack of meat grazing in the grass. It turns its head to look at you, a wad of grass hanging from its slowly chewing mouth, and its blank, seemingly unthinking eyes blinking at you, only mildly intrigued at your presence. You think to yourself, "I just need a good-sized rock and I'll have meat for weeks!"

It wasn't until later that we remembered that cows were one of the few animals humans had domesticated. We looked it up and found that the cow's ancestor, the aurochs, actually packed a punch and would have taken some real effort to take down.

For instance, check out this aurochs fighting off a pack of hungry wolves like it ain't no thing.

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Turns out, cows are tougher and smarter and smarter than we gave them credit for, being the suburbanites we were. Our image of a fat, dumb, lobotomized sack of meat was colored by the domesticated cows we had seen on TV, and that one time we visited an actual farm.

That being said, cows making their blank, bewildered faces still hold a certain place in my heart as charmingly goofy animals, somewhere in the realm of cats chasing laser pointers and dogs trying and succeeding at catching their own tails. So when I saw this coffee table book at the library, I jumped to look at pictures of their chubby bovine faces. I wasn't disappointed.

 Photo by  Bruce Fritz  in "The Complete Cow"

Photo by Bruce Fritz in "The Complete Cow"

I was also surprised to learn from Complete Cow that cows in the pasture have a social hierarchy within their herds. They're a bunch of regular "mean girls". They all have their own grazing "territory" in the field or at the trough. There's one cow at the top of the pecking order who can eat whenever and wherever she wants, and one sad-sack at the bottom who just has to wait her turn while all the more dominant cows eat at their leisure, sometimes waiting more than a half hour before eating anything. They'll push and shove to find their own spot, and if you're not willing to fight for your rank? Well, Gretchen Wieners will tell you what happens.

If you want a brilliantly bovine coffee table book in your life, this is the one to get! So if you want to browse the cows, and support this blog, buy it from the link below! Or just rent Mean Girls from the other link below! It's cheaper and it's a great movie!