Hostile Cow

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you how Harland helped one of our cows with a difficult birthing. You can catch up with that story HERE.

So, after the calf was safely delivered, we released the cow. For our safety, she had been tied up during the birth via a lasso around her neck and a halter on her head, both tied to a post. Harland removed the lasso first, and then the halter. She got to her feet and promptly stepped into the halter and it caught on her front foot. We waited for her to take another step out of the halter, but instead she stepped on the lead rope of the halter with her back foot which tightened it up on her front foot. We stared in disbelief. This was about 8:30pm, and all we wanted was to go home.

Well, the only way for Harland to remove the halter without getting his head kicked off was to lasso her again and tie her to the post. But since she had just been through that hated experience, she was onto Harland and his wily ways. It required some careful tap dancing, but he finally got the lasso back on, and then double wrapped it around a post, and then double wrapped it around a crosspiece of wood nailed to another post. All the wrapping creates friction so that even a puny person like me can hold onto the rope and restrain a 1000 pound cow. He then began to draw in the slack on the rope trying to bring her against the post and secure. Well, he got her within about 6 feet of the post, but because she was angry and trying to escape, snorting and dancing around, he was not able to draw in the rest of the slack on the rope.   So he decided to just try and get the halter off her foot without drawing in the rest of the slack. In hindsight, not a good idea.

“Here, you hold the rope.” Reluctantly I got into the pen. My job was to pull on the rope maintaining tension and not to give her any more slack. Then Harland bent down near her front foot to remove the halter. She refused to hold still, and after a period of trying to evade him, she then decided she’d had enough of this puny human.

She turned on him, trapping him in a corner of the pen driving him against the wall with her 1000 pounds. He and she struggled for a while, but he finally got out of that jam, and then moved to the other end of the pen where he knelt down again near her foot to remove the halter. This time she lowered her head and drove him into a corner against a gate where she proceeded to wallow on him like a dog on a rabbit. I held onto the rope maintaining tension so she couldn’t get anymore reach which would have allowed her to stomp him with her feet. Harland was on the ground, hands over his head in a fetal position while she pummeled him with her head putting as much weight on him as she could, and straining against the rope while I held onto for dear life.

I desparately wanted to help Harland, but I was across the pen and didn’t dare let go of the rope.

Harland cried out.  Time stopped. I began to scream…and scream…and scream and scream.

I don’t know how long it went on, but finally the B-tch paused long enough for Harland to crawl out of her reach. He had lost his hat and glasses and went back to find them, picking leisurely through the straw, like a gardener looking for weeds. He finally found them, dusted them off and cracked a smile at me.

I was ready to call it a night.

Sometime during the fracas, the wooden cross beam the rope was wrapped around had been torn partially loose from the wall, giving the B- even more slack as now it was only wrapped around the post.

I’d had enough. If the B- wanted to keep that halter on her foot, I didn’t care. But Harland was determined, and after much tap dancing around while the B- continued trying to kill him and me(fortunately I was able to keep just out of her reach), he finally got it off her foot. Now all we had to do was remove the lasso from around her neck and escape out of the pen. Harland took over holding the rope, and I crawled over the gate to freedom. Harland managed to get the lasso off her neck, at which point she came after him as he made a run for the gate to climb over. As she neared him, he grabbed her nose and held it away from him turning her head away and preventing her from pummeling him again as he climbed over the gate to safety.

Now alone in the pen, the B- turned her rage against the gate running her head beneath it and trying to lift it from its hinges, snorting and pawing at the ground.

During all this time, her calf had been lying in the straw in an adjoining pen, and now Harland told me to open the gate so he could put the calf into the same pen with the B-.  I questioned if we shouldn’t wait until she calmed down, and he replied that the sight of her calf would calm her down. So as she continued to work the gate over on the far side of the pen, we slipped the calf in with her and then waited. Harland made some bawling calf sounds to get her attention and I joined in. I can do a pretty mean imitaition of a young calf, one of my rare talents.

“Mmmmmm-aaaaaa” “mmmmmmm-aaaaaa” we both called. It worked. She took a break from assaulting the gate, and turned around.

A light bulb went on….. “Oh yeah, I have a calf….I’d better go clean it up and take care of it.”

She walked across the pen and stood over the calf panting from her wearisome exertions against the puny humans. We watched and waited out in the dark pasture. She finally reached down and began to lick her baby and clean it up. We sighed in relief, collected our gear, and headed home.

Once there, I told Harland I wanted to get out of the cattle business, and then I cried all over his shirt. Later, we had a drink as we sat at the kitchen table and compared injuries.  Harland was a myriad of bruises across his chest where she had been driving her head at him, and on his back from being pushed against the gate. He also had a growing knot on his head. His “unbendable/unbreakable” eyeglass frames were bent. My hands were raw from holding the rope (one of the few times I’ve been caught doing a job like this without gloves, darnnit).

Harland had roped down cows many times, but had never been attacked this way. He made jokes about the B- having anger management issues….

We reviewed the whole incident. We shouldn’t have released the lasso before the halter. The lasso should always be the last thing done before exiting the pen. That way she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to step into the halter and catch it on her foot. And we should have been using a quick release halter. That night Harland ordered one online. The next day he ordered a better lasso that is not supposed to be as stiff and will be easier to pull up on slack. He also ordered some sort of hand crank system that reels in the cow to the post like a fish on a line. All these improvements should make working with cows in close quarters easier and safer.

Farming is one of the most dangerous professions. Getting into a pen with a 1000 pound animal is a scary but necesssary part of the job. Hopefully with our improved gear we won’t have to go through an ordeal like this ever again.

And as for the B- ? Well….. all’s forgiven. After all, from her point of view her behavior was justified. There she was trying to have a calf, and the humans came along put her in a pen, tied her to a post, and the male human stuck his arm up her personal areas. Then just when it looked like she was home free, they roped her down again, and chased her around grabbing at her foot. Intolerable, she thought. She was defending herself against what she perceived as a serious threat.

By the next day, she was back to her normal cow self, watching from a respectable distance while Harland ear-tagged her calf…

and dreaming about being released out into the grassy pasture with the rest of the cows and calves, and away from the humans.

Later that day her dream came true.



Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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35 Responses

  1. Alica says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. I’m so glad you’re both ok. This is a great example of the quote “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!” I know fresh cows can be horrible…my sister got attacked by one while trying to bottle feed her calf, but luckily slid under the gate to get away.

    • Suzanne says:

      Thanks Alica, It’s easy to forget that while they appear docile most of the time, there’s a lot of fight or flight instinct just under the surface just waiting to come out. Glad your sister wasn’t hurt.

  2. Teresa says:

    I’m so glad that my only cattle are pets. I really would trust MJ with my life. Maxine if in trouble calving~all bets would be off. Fear and pain is just as difficult for a cow as a person, but they don’t always realize we’re trying to help. Glad nobody was seriously injured. Very scary.

  3. Lisa says:

    Glad everything worked out. Large animals can be scary and dangerous business.

  4. Glenda says:

    Suzanne, how scary for you both. I know Harland was trying to qualm your fears by joking about it but man, that was close! So glad you both learned something without losing body or limb. He will be sore for at least a week I’d bet!
    Both of you count your blessings and yes, a smaller animal may be in your futures! Love you guys!

    • Suzanne says:

      Yes, I hugged him the other day and he said “oh, be careful that hurts”. Thanks Glenda, love you too.

  5. Julie says:

    Wow. So glad neither of you were seriously injured! Very scary.

  6. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:

    I sure hope Harlan has recovered from his pummeling. And thank goodness he wasn’t seriously hurt. He may have joked with you trying to calm you down, but believe me, she got his attention. He’ll be a bit more wary the next time I suspect.

  7. Pam K. says:

    Oh my goodness! So glad you both survived the mama cow’s onslaught! On the other hand, your descriptions of the “mad cow” made me laugh out loud, and I SO wish you had been able to video it (while also getting your hands scraped raw by holding the rope!).

  8. Debbie says:

    I’m so glad you are both okay. I watched my husband get pummeled by a neighbor cow (heifer) one time while trying to help her calf (who was being ignored and suffocating with part of the amniotic sack stuck to his nose and mouth). I too screamed and watched helplessly. He didn’t get beat up as much as Harland did though. I learned a new respect for these “docile” animals, but also didn’t blame the cow. I’m a mom and GET where she was coming from! 🙂 I do love reading your stories. We share a lot of the same values and respect for Mother Nature and her creatures!

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Debbie! Glad your hubby was ok too. Cows look docile, until you do something to them, and then they know they can throw their weight around.

  9. Tom Parker says:

    After that first drubbing I’d have retrieved the shotgun and proceeded to plan B. Which is, of course: Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.
    Please tell Harland to stop wrestling murderous bovines–he might think it’s entertaining, but sooner or later he’s going to get his lunch handed to him.

  10. Hollyce says:

    My gosh. I was wondering what your reaction to all of this was and can only imagine the screaming while your husband is being pummeled by this cow. Glad all four of you are OK.

    • Suzanne says:

      Didn’t know I had it in me to scream like that. It just came out. If we had neighbors, they would have come running, but we don’t. One of the drawbacks of living in a remote area.

  11. Karen says:

    That was one of the scariest things I have read in a long time! You must have been terrified watching that cow ramming into Harland. Thank goodness you both have cool heads in an emergency and that you held on to that rope. I am so glad it all turned out well. You really should write a book Suzanne! It would be a page turner! xx

  12. Jann-Marie says:

    How awful! Never heard of cows acting in such a manner.
    Thank heaven you both escaped being seriously injured…or worse.

    • Suzanne says:

      Beef cows aren’t handled much at all, not like dairy cows who are handled twice a day every day of their lives. So beef cows are easily spooked. I’ve heard stories of cows killing farmers, squishing them against fences, walls, and trees, trampling them to death. It happens. We were blessed to have escaped injury.

  13. Beth says:

    Wow I have seen ornery, mad cows do their dirty work and you two are very lucky.. so glad you both are ok.. what a very scary situation.. I would be shipping that witch out..

  14. Suzanne! You had me in tears when I read about Harland crying out and you were screaming and screaming! I could just see it all in my mind and I totally felt for you!! Oh my gosh! Thank God Harland is okay…thank God you are okay! That must have been pure terror….how horrible! I’m glad you guys ordered some things that will make it easier and safer for you, being as, I’m sure you are NOT getting out of the cattle business! Oh man! What a story!!

    • Suzanne says:

      Oh, you’re so sweet Bonnie. We were more shaken than physically hurt, but I hope we never go thru anything like that again.
      Thank you Bonnie! 🙂

  15. Alyse says:

    I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been for you both. Especially you knowing you couldn’t do anything. I’m kind of afraid of horses and whenever I tell someone it’s because they are so MUCH BIGGER than me, they don’t get it. I know you two do.

    P.S. I’ve been a lurker for the past year and a half but these posts really drew me out. 😉

    • Suzanne says:

      Me too Alyse, I’m afraid of horses too, anything bigger than me deserves respect. 🙂
      Good to hear from you!

  16. Kath says:

    You two are very very brave. Glad it turned out well for all of you!

    I couldnt watch the video as I have been blessed to witness many a barn birth. Found them to be a great diet plan as after I got through helping the poor struggling mama my tummy was emptied soon after in the nearest corner! lol

    • Suzanne says:

      Oh dear, really? You didn’t get used to it? Must have been hard for you to help if it always grossed you out. And that makes you brave!

  17. Tina says:

    OMG!! Suzanna I’ll bet you were scared to death. I am so glad neither one of you was hurt more than you were. I vote that you go with goats and make organic goat cheese. Cattle are too big and dangerous.Please take care and give Harland a hug.

  18. Murphala says:

    Intense story! I’m glad you both escaped relatively unscathed!

  19. Oh my gosh! How awful! And how helpless you must have felt at the time. So glad you have a plan to make it safer in the future. I hope you are both healing up OK. (Did he check with the doc to make sure there were no cracked ribs?)

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Daisies.
      A man go to the Dr? Ha! I tried to make him go, but he never did. But he’s doing a lot better now. Not the first time he’s been assaulted by a cow. Years ago before I met him, a cow charged him in the pasture, took him for a ride on her back, and tossed him off. He did end up with broken ribs that time.

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