Friday, December 11, 2009

Cows Are Stupid

small gathering of cows between Mission and Monument Peaks, above Fremont and Milpitias, CA, earlier this week

Here is my official statement on cows: They are stupid.

Many of the East Bay Regional Parks, in which I do most of my running, are open for cattle grazing, so I am often running by cows. I've learned to slow down and talk to cows when I pass them; sometimes this works to keep them calm, but too many are too skittish.

Today, I startled a lone grazing cow and despite slowing my pace to a walk and trying to act like a friendly Hindu, she freaked out and fled down the winding fire road I was running. After about a mile, she finally veered off the trail. But after I crested a small hill, I saw her ahead running back onto the fire road.

Cows are one of the few animals I know who will let you chase them for miles on a trail. Skunks will let you chase them but even they aren't so stupid as to get back in front of you on the trail you are running. (See the final third of my Rio del Lago 2008 report for my experience chasing skunks.) Even the lowly fish knows to veer to the side when pursued. But cows? Idiotic!

To make things worse, the heifer caught up to a large herd of her friends, and so I found myself chasing not just one but about 30-40.

This situation always makes me nervous. Several years ago, early in my explorations of Bay Area trails, I chased a herd of cattle until the trail dead-ended into an impassible barbed-wire fence. Even before the trail ended, a few of the alpha cows (bulls?) were starting to moo angrily, occasionally giving me the evil bovine stare. When I was forced to turn around and head back, several of the angrier larger ones took this as a sign of weakness and fear and soon started chasing me, at which point I actually did become filled with fear, as I wondered how long it would take for some rancher to find my gored, trampled body.

To avoid riling up today's mob, I veered to the sloped side to try to bypass them, and had to go up and down several steep inclines, but as often happens, the herd continued to run parallel with me, which always pisses me off because this is so obviously a stupid maneuver. Luckily I was able to lose them when the trail split. Turning to look, I saw at least one bona-find steer with the really long, sharp horns, that could've easily impaled me had the stupid creature figured things out.

I try to keep my consumption of red meat down mainly for ecological reasons, and then we'll pay extra to eat either organic or free-range cattle. But in terms of killing a sentient creature, I will feel just as guilty about eating crabs than cows.

For what it's worth (I know this stuff, but it doesn't always work), safety tips for cows.


Paul Charteris said...

You want to try running with sheep. There's stupid for you.

GB said...

I am SO FREAKING AFRAID of cows because of a run-in I had with them when I was running the Mission Peak Trail in my early 20s. Same thing that happened to you! It freaked me out and ever since then I will not go near them... I will only eat them.

When I ran that Ohlone 50K in '08 and came upon cows... I froze with fear for almost a minute, and then I sprinted by them as fast as I could. LOL!

Glad you avoided impalement!

Lloyd said...

Yep, I've encountered the cattle in Garin Park as well. The foot race sounds thrilling but not one I imagine winning or enjoying.

rustyboy said...

My wife and I went for a run in the Olympic National Forest last month and came across a huuuuge herd of elk.

Dumb + massive + fast = us screaming, "go away!" over and over and watching them return to the trail only 50 yards ahead. Oy.

Gretchen said...

Stupid..okay. But the little baby ones are so cute! Nothing like a little extra excitement for the trail run, right? As long as you continue to avoid impalement!

Anonymous said...

you don't know much about cattle.