Mar 10 2011

Spinster aunt has a cow, man


For our next riveting installment of Heartwarming Nature Crap, I present the heartwarming Texas longhorn heifer (or calf — what am I, some kinda cattle sexpert?) who lives across the creek from El Rancho Deluxe with a herd of much, much bigger longhorns. This longhorn herd greatly interests my dogs, to the extent that they — the dogs — will squeeze under barbed wire fences to encroach on their — the cattle’s — personal space to sniff their — the cattle’s — apparently irresistible cow-pies. Although longhorns are comparatively docile for organisms that weigh 2000 pounds and have sharp 6-foot prongs jutting out of their heads, an unpleasant outcome may eventually ensue, since my dumb dogs don’t know from adult cattle with giant horns who may or may not perceive them — the dogs — as a threat to their feckless offspring.

A spinster aunt and/or gentleman farmer’s animal husbandry worries never cease.

Texas longhorns are, like those bug-eyed Chihuahua dogs, primarily decorative animals. Some people butcher and eat them, and sometimes rockabilly types affix their — the cattle’s — horns to the grills of their — the rockabilly types’ — vintage Cadillacs, but mostly they — the cattle — just stand around in pastures as props in the personal narratives of dude ranchers, emitting methane. A hundred kilos per year per cow.

Fittingly, the Texas State Legislature has chosen the greenhouse-gas-producing longhorn as the Texas State Large Mammal (the Texas State Small Mammal is the nine-banded armadillo. This is fitting too, since between 5 and 10 percent of nine-banded armadillos have leprosy.)


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  1. Comrade PhysioProf

    I present the heartwarming Texas longhorn heifer (or calf — what am I, some kinda cattle sexpert?)

    Isn’t it just the d00d ones that have horns?

  2. Jill

    It is not. Observe.

  3. Bushfire

    Why the sudden love for em-dashes?

  4. TotallyDorkin

    This calf is cute! I would like to give it a hug.

  5. Comrade PhysioProf

    Wow! You learn something every day at this fucken place!

  6. raven_feathers

    it is not a heifer vis-a-vis bovine dong right smack in the middle, ergo a steer (i.e. dude bovine). like many men, he is pretty cute, in addition to being highly useless.

  7. Satchel

    … between 5 and 10 percent of nine-banded armadillos have leprosy.

    ::: head explodes :::

  8. MPMR

    Well, if we’re talking about cute cattle (and female cattle with horns), we should also consider highland cattle (pronounced HEH-rrry COO in Scotland):



  9. MPMR

    Well, if we’re talking about cute cattle (and female cattle with horns), we should also consider highland cattle (pronounced HEH-rrry COO in Scotland):


  10. Cybelene

    Sorry to disappoint you Raven Feathers, but that is not the little critters,, er, business. Since I had horses as a kid and not cattle, I don’t know what it is called, but many bovine breeds have that little tuft of hair in the middle of their bellies.

    MPMR, that is one of the most adorable photos ever. Mama looks soo cuddly — and so ready to take you apart with those massive horns if you come anywhere near her baby!

  11. Bonnie

    Shazam! **zzzzap**

    Y’know, my father-in/out-law hasn’t been allowed in our home since 2006, on our birthdays. We’d invited him in and he decided the most appropriate way to behave was to crap (metaphorically, natch) on the carpet. And he complains to anyone he can trap into listening to him what a victim he is and how justified he was. Dick.

    Cute longhorn. I like roan-y/brown-y/rusty-colored critters.

  12. Killerchick

    Beautiful obviation of ambiguity via punctuation.

    It is almost as heartwarming as the cow.

  13. Eileen

    It is my understanding that nine-banded armadillos almost always have litters of identical quadruplets. So if susceptibility-to-leprosy is genetically-tied, it makes sense that so many armadillos would carry it since their gene pool is, relatively speaking, shallow.

  14. Sylvie

    May the lesson of “they” clarification be learnt be so many of the people good manners compels me to listen to.

  15. Sylvie

    Oh no – petard, hoist, etc. Gonna blame the wine.

  16. Hermionemone

    According to a highly authoritative article (as in, the authors may have been high?) in a widely-available free encyclopedia,

    “Due to their innate gentle disposition and intelligence, Texas Longhorns are increasingly being trained as riding steers.”

    ‘Gentle’ seems a surprising adjective for a critter with such vicious-appearing barbs. But it bodes well for the puppies.

  17. Kea

    Gorgeous! But I felt like sharing this with everyone: an email received this morning from a male colleague in Europe, that I have never met. Apparently, all the gossip about me must be true!

    “No, on the contrary, I listened to you and came to the same conclusion [that the gossip was true] independently.
    You assume that I cannot make a proper judgement based upon what you told me and what other people said, and therefore I am less special than you are (in your own imaginary world).

    Please Kea, if you want to lecture about proper feminism, read the writings of Russell. I actually personally know very successful business woman and they are nothing like you; they act and are cocky like men are. They deserve respect and have a pressure over them you cannot even start to imagine.

    I have no time to listen to modern feminist crap where it are actually men who are discriminated against.

    Kind regards …”

  18. ew_nc

    Kea, let me know if you need any help cleaning up the bits of your exploded brain. I’d also be happy to rip male colleague a new one on your behalf.

  19. wondering

    raven_feathers is correct on the gender of said calf. Wow. Who knew there were benefits to being raised on a farm.

  20. Pinko Punko

    Down the road from us are the non-longhorn kinds. The dogs do indeed act like the cattle are almost giant squirrels that must be approached, regardless of barbed wire. Our carpetbagging dogs do not have a sense of barbed wire and its ways. Yanks!

  21. Friend of Snakes

    May I share my favorite nugget from ten minutes of educating myself about these beasts? From the presumably appropriately-named Frequently Asked Questions about Texas Longhorn Cattle

    Of course, caution is required among Texas Longhorns because of the long horns. Although our cattle have never attacked or harmed a human on purpose, they can and do use their horns to manipulate objects and to scratch their bodies, so reasonable care should be exercised around the cattle to avoid accidental contact with the horns. Texas Longhorns will also defend their calves against dogs, so we are careful to keep our dogs at a safe distance from the herd. [emphasis, as you may imagine, added]

    And, yeah, my first guess was male, but now I’m thinking heifer.

  22. Mortisha

    Dr Helen Donoghue who works in the medical microbiology department at University College London does some way cool stuff on the history of diseases like leprosy.

    Closely related to TB it is, some modern work in Central America looking at cases of tuberculoid leprosy found a lot of it around, not recognised by the local doctors and it looks like a little skin lesion. The only thing is when you touch it with the end of a biro pen the person can’t feel you touch the lesion, the nerve has been destroyed. Then you ask them to put their hands down flat on a surface and their little finger, or their ring finger can’t go down flat. That’s because the bacteria are damaging the nerve, especially around the elbow and if those aren’t treated they can go on to form a more destructive form.

    Very hard to get though- TB is scarier.

    Here is transcript of an interview with her.

    Cool sciencey stuff, wanna go play with genome sequencing now.

  23. speedbudget

    Wow. First I learn that opossums can’t carry rabies due to their low body temperature, now I learn that armadillos carry leprosy at a high rate. Heart-warming nature crap on feminist blogs is just the best thing since sliced Irish soda bread.

  24. Vinaigrette Girl

    Impervious to waving of feminist credentials as if in a willy-waving contest, I would also venture the opinion that the picture is of a little steer, rather than a heifer; for why? (As Kit Smart might say).

    For that its hip conformation is straight and high and conformeth not to the carrying and dropping of calves.

    For that its shoulders and head are heavy in proportion to its hindquarters.

    For that its chest is deep in respect of its hips.

    For that its belly slopes upwards into the hips the which even in young heifers is less steeply sloping.

    For that it looketh much like the steers I see out my back window and little enough like the heifers I see from the same.

    For that my Women’s Instinct telleth me so.

    For that I have looked on a great many young cattle in my years and my Women’s Instinct is in fact the accumulated observations of many clues which I then aggregate into a working hypothesis.

    For that I am Officially Correct until proven otherwise.

  25. Jill

    Lots of cows (female cattle) have exactly the protuberance pictured in the young bovine above. I see them every day in the pasture next door. Don’t believe me? Google images for “cow.”

  26. Hermionemone

    Oh aren’t we cute! Witness Twisty’s Law in action, again.
    The little tuft of hair makes heifers and bullocks less distinguishable from a distance, but for some reason we /have to know./

    And then there’s this:
    “In all cattle species, a female that is the twin of a bull usually becomes an infertile partial intersex, and is [called] a freemartin.”

    So the little critter is very likely male, female, or a physical and behavioural mixture. Nature is such a lovely shade of tawny, isn’t it?

  27. AlienNumber

    These questions of whether or not female cows have horns and underbelly hairy protuberances make me laugh in the same way I laughed when I read the results of that survey about cows administered to clueless and very urban German kids.
    12% of them thought that cows’ natural color was purple! (Milka executives threw a party that day).

    In different news, a good use of a female cow* is to take her by a string to neighborhood pastures and read a novel- maybe Tess of the d’Urbervilles – while she grazes. It’s all very calming and pastoral.

    *where I grew up about 20 years ago, there was one male cow per three villages and his sole purpose was to “donate sperm” to the string of female cows the villagers would bring by when the females were in heat. All the other male cows were (are?) promptly eaten within weeks of their birth. If I remember correctly, the little calf half- brothers were delicious.

  28. Kelly

    Why do dogs love sniffing bottoms and poop so much?

  29. io

    Nature crap and disambiguation warms the heart!

  30. redpeachmoon

    “Freemartin”? so the trans debate continues!
    more posts from vinaigrette girl please.
    Thank you.

  31. speedbudget

    Wow. I just googled freemartin. Suyuns is so cool! Intersex cows are cool!

  32. Kmtberry

    I think that if they feed on grass, the amount of methane emitted is far less. Cattle that are fattened on grain are the methane emitters extraordinaire .

  33. hero

    Farts or not, that is some pretty animal.

  34. Diana

    Twisty, I love everything about this and your blog and blaming.

    I will blame on as long as there is a blaming breath in my body.

    Your blaming gives me strength!

  35. lil sis

    awwww cyoot! dogs are gross, my dogs recently rolled in chicken poop, they love the stuff. they also eat cat poo whenever possible. retch. at least cow poo is just grass?

  36. raven_feathers

    well, this here owner of several steers and a cow or two over the years still maintains that that “tuft” (that’s all hardened with urine) is the dude’s doodle. i’ve worked at dairy farms all over hither and yon and felt up a lot of cows and never once saw one with that manner of long, crusty, hairy dick-tuft. mebbe it’s different with longhorns.

  37. Jezebella

    Mang, there sure is a lot of concern over the sex of that there fuzzy-wuzzy calf. What does it matter?

  38. Friend of Snakes

    “What does it matter?”

    Dunno for sure, but you can’t deny that “Boy or Girl?” is usually the first thing anyone wonders (whether aloud or not) when one views any animal for the first time.

  39. octopod

    Man is that a weird impulse.

    Also, an impractical methane factory it may be, but damn if it ain’t a cute little hairball.

  40. Drew

    More than “weird”, it seems to me to be a symptom of the (socially constructed) sex and gender binaries that we’ve been painstakingly brainwashed into accepting as ultimate truth. There is definitely a connection between the phenomenon of needing to know what “sex” another animal is and the oppression of trans people, intersex people, and wimmin. Everyone’s body is different from everyone else’s, including nonhumyns, the only ones served by dividing any of us into neat little categories are the ones whose category is arbitrarily on top. (rich white male humans)

    Also I’ve wanted to bring this up for a while on this blog but am hesitant because I’ve only ever met 2 other people who take a critique of speciesism this far, not to mention seems like 98% of even radical folk think speciesism is an absurd concept. But here goes anyway and I will hope I can explain it. When folks say things about how another animal (a non-humyn one) is “cute”, it comes off as objectifying. Same as posting pictures of them. Because I do see non-humyn beings as constituting other oppressed communities, in that they are held captive, victims of violence, viewed as commodities, and so on. And I am not equating this to humyn oppression or humyn objectification though they are related.

    (I am a white trannyboy who grew up middle class and is currently homeless.)

    Jill, I appreciate your commitment to justice and confrontation of the obvious intersections of oppressions. (with particular thought on the recent “trans debate(s)”)

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