April 23, 2010

Cows on Break

OK, technically, there are no cows in this picture.  Here we have one young steer (with the wide horns) and three heifers enjoying the mineral lick in the pasture below the Lower House...but no cows.  According to strict farm terminology, a "cow" is an adult female that has had a calf.  Not only is there is no singular term for cattle (this is called a plurale tantum, for the next time you're on Jeopardy), there is also no generic term; when you refer to an individual animal (bull, cow, heifer, steer), you are also giving information about its' sex and ability to breed or breeding history.  I'm not aware of another animal, domesticated or otherwise, that shares this strange linguistic trait.  A gelding remains a horse, a pullet will always be a chicken, and a gander is a goose.  But a steer can't be a cow...or a "cattle."  You can see that I obviously have too much time to think while mucking out stalls...      

The group in this photo have been spending a lot of time together recently since the cows all had calves this spring, and the bull (Big John) and his current harem are almost always kept on their own.  The little heifer to the right of the steer, looking into the camera, is in training to be a fine milk cow some day.  From the time she was born, she has been petted and spoiled, and has become quite tame.  She is affectionately known as Teenage Baby Princess Star, although her registered name is Rose of Sharon.  Thanks to Laura for the photo.

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