Everything You Didn't Know You Needed To Know About Animals

I grew up on a dairy farm. I loved my childhood.  We were taught responsibility, hard work, how families all work together to make life happen, compassion for animals, and the reality of the circle of life. Besides those things that I was taught, I learned a few other things as well. Mostly from my friends, who visited the farm but didn't live on one. I would scratch my head at these friends, thinking, "really? How could you not know that?," because I was young enough to think that it was common knowledge that these friends were lacking. In reality, I knew as little about city living as they did about country living.

I remember a test in school asking which side of the street house #139 would be on if number #140 were on the right. (Or something like that.) I logically said on the right, because DUH, number 140 follows 139. I lived in the country, and that was before 911 made house numbers mandatory for everyone. My home address was RD2, meaning we were the second delivery route that the post office sent out. Those postmen had to know their customers!

So here, my friends far and wide, are things you didn't know you needed to know about animals so that you can feel like you, too, grew up on a farm.

1. Cows don't bite. Cows do not have upper teeth in the front of their mouths. This makes it hard to actually inflict damage if a cow would try to bite, and they're smart enough to know this. They just don't try.

2. Cows can kick sideways. I can't count the number of times I've gotten kicked by a cow as I've walked up beside it to wash it or put a milker on. Those cloven hooves really inflict pain, too. Any farmer can tell you that being beside a cow is generally a more dangerous place to be than directly behind it. Here is an illustration of the range of a cow's back legs. And by golly, they're quick. One minute you're minding your own business and the next you're grasping your leg in pain. Provided you're still on your feet.

3. Female cattle have horns. The general impression is that if the animal has horns, it is a male. Cows are not like deer, where the males have antlers and the females do not. Certain breeds of cows do not have horns at all (whether male or female), but if the breed does, both genders will grow them. Most farmers de-horn their calves for safety reasons, therefore when you see female cows being milked, they won't have horns.

4. All cows produce white milk. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but I've heard the question asked more than once if brown cows give chocolate milk. Chocolate is an additive post-milking. If a cow is producing chocolate milk, THROW THAT SHIZ OUT. That would be the presence of blood in the milk, and you're not going to want to drink that. And yes, this is also a true statement. I've seen it firsthand. It looks every bit as chocolate as what you buy in the store, and every instinct says, "dude, that looks delicious!" We didn't even feed this to calves, because YUCK.

5. Dairy cows do not nurse their calves. Sure, they have plenty of milk, but if farmers allowed calves to drink it all, there would be none to sell. Calves are separated from their mothers shortly after birth (yes, it's traumatic for all involved) and the calves are raised on milk replacer while the cows are milked 2-3 times daily to provide income for the farmer.

6. Horses can bite your finger off. Really. Horses have an incredibly powerful bite. We warned people all the time to please hold their hand flat as they gave a horse a treat, and yet we'd see friends cup their hands like they were trying to hold in water. Most horses are gentle when taking food from your hand, but accidents still happen. Look at your hand when it's cupped, and look at it when you hold it flat open. Those folds of skin and the base of your thumb when it's cupped can be caught between a horse's teeth, and that would hurt at best. When your hand is flat open, there is little to accidentally nip as a horse takes a treat. And a horse can actually bite a finger off. It's not a scare tactic.

7. You don't flap the reins to get a horse to go. This comes from horses pulling buggies or other things. You do wiggle those reins to tell a horse it's time to move, because you're behind them and they need a signal of some sort. It's not a smack to scare them into action, just a gentle "time to go" thing. But when you're actually sitting on a horse, a gentle squeeze with your lower leg will tell a horse the same thing. And when I say gentle, I mean just that. Squeezing too hard, or an actual kick, can startle a horse, and next thing you know you'll be laying in the manure pile because your horse bolted out from under you. (True story, and it was hilarious to watch.)

8. Pigs are actually clean animals. Pigs don't sweat, so to keep cool, they lay in mud. Or manure. Or anything else that'll help cool them on hot days. If you give a pig a clean pen and a cool fan, they're actually fairly clean animals, and like dogs, will designate one area as their restroom and another as their sleeping quarters. 

9. A pony is not a young horse. A pony and a horse are both adult versions of the equine gender. It's like saying a teacup poodle is a baby standard poodle. The teacup version will not grow larger than it's genetics have predetermined, no matter how old it is. Equally, ponies are smaller versions of horses, not younger versions. The determination of classification of horse or pony is one of size rather than age. A pony measures 4'10" at the withers (point at base of neck just before back starts) and a horse is over this size. Horsemen say that a horse is over 14.2, because a horse is measured in hands rather than feet. A hand is 4", so a horse that is 14.2 is 14 hands and 2 inches tall at the withers. A pony is anything shorter than this.

10. Dogs yawn when they're stressed. A dog who is yawning when a toddler is nearby is a dog that may need watched. Most dogs will simply walk away from a stressful situation, but if a dog is forced to be somewhere it's not comfortable, it'll yawn repeatedly. Being aware of the situation, and your dog, will prevent injuries.

This is Jill yawning. One could say she's tired from being the mom of a one-week old baby, but I know the behind-the-scenes. Cooper was right outside the crate, and Jill was incredibly stressed that another dog was that close to her baby. The fact that she wouldn't take her eyes off Cooper (notice her looking to the left rather than toward the floor where her baby is) coupled with the yawn tells me that Jill is stress yawning. I removed Cooper from the situation before things could escalate.

1 comment:

HalfAsstic.com said...

Love this, Karen!
Spreading the knowledge!