Monday, December 10, 2012
El Torito: love and aggro in the cowyard (1)
It's a peculiar thing that jersey bulls are aggressive little sods, while jersey cows are generally docile. One young bull we called Victor, whose horns had barely grown to full size, laid my father out over a rail on one occasion.
Victor did not last long. It was not my father's way that any animal, let alone a half-grown jersey bull, should question who was master at Sunny Hills.
But well before we had Victor, we had a jersey stud bull called El Torito. That's what we named him, and a fine name it was. It also suited his personality, because he would have made a hit in the bullring. Literally. He was agile, fearless and fiery.
In the course of a couple of years, El Torito sired many fine calves, but his prowess in that sense isn't the subject of this story. It's about his outlets for aggression. We kids were wary of him for good reason; we chose to give him a wide berth, and even Dad kept a sharp eye out for him, particularly when one of El Torito's amiable wives developed a sudden fondness for her lord – one that evolved from biological imperative.
Actually, why not talk about his lovelife? How many townies know about Love Among the Jerseys in fields of barley [and the cowyard] when you've got one testosterone-charged stud bull and his sixty or so wives it was his duty to tend? This is racy stuff, so I put an appropriate label on it. Parental Guidance. You have been warned.
Townies wouldn't know it, but cows fall in love. Briefly, admittedly – but I'll come to that, now I have the attention of the romantics among you. Sometimes it’s the cow that decides to hang around the bull, but usually it's when the cow is performing the erotic art of urination that the bull suspects something, especially if he happens to be downwind of the lady. It's in the air. It gets his attention.
If she's still in the erotic act by the time he gets close enough, he does a spot ovulation test. I'm serious. Any dairy farm kid has seen this performed hundreds of times, though the whole thing puzzled us deeply when we witnessed it at a tender age. While the tap is still running as it were and puts his nose under the sample issuing forth. Then, his nostrils dripping, he moves his head back and upwards from the golden stream, and does this strange wrinkle-up-the-nose thing for a few seconds. You'd swear he was looking displeased. It's usually not the case at all.
Something in the wrinkling-the-nose process tells him she's ready. Hot to trot as it were. In season. They fall in love instantly – don't let anyone ever tell you love at first...smell... isn't possible. There's a brief honeymoon of some two or three days (I'll spare you the Fifty Shades details) but we observed in awe as our parents looked sheepishly uncomfortable, watching us watch in the milking yards what was being enacted before those childish eyes.
Another ovulation test with just as much nose-wrinkling after a day or two of these lustily amorous sessions presaged what may appear to be a sad story. The honeymoon was over. The lovesick bulling and mooing of the past days ceased, particularly if a whiff from another direction indicated to El Torito that love as a unit of production had to be shared around a bit.
Neither seemed to mind about the breakup. The joys of love are fleeting, we were told by the Seekers, and there were no tears, no angry moos or stamping of hooves. Each got from the dalliance what nature said they must, and it was time to move on.
Right. Now I'll get back to the point. I had no idea that we would be taken down this pathway to the Chapel of Bovine Love.
I do want to say though, that when it comes to humans, I'm glad there are other ovulation tests.