When it comes to smart animals, cows are not the first ones that come to mind. In fact, even the word “cattle” brings to mind images of empty-headed heifers staring out blankly from fields of green. But are all cows really dumb? Do they have emotions, or even remember things the way we do? Well, here’s a story that might just make your mind up for you.
This cow, named Clarabelle, was living on a dairy farm in Australia where she had been relentlessly over bred, and she was producing little milk as a result. Consequently, Clarabelle was considered of no further use to the farm, and her life was forfeit. However, hours from getting the chop, charity workers stepped in and saved her from becoming mincemeat.
Contrary to popular belief, cows actually only produce milk after pregnancy, which is why they are often forced into a constant cycle of birth. And that’s not all: the calves created as a by-product of this production line are cruelly torn away from their mothers to be later killed for beef and veal. Naturally, these newborns are sent to slaughter, with their fates unknown to their grieving mothers.
When Clarabelle lived on the dairy farm, she repeatedly had her babies ripped away from her shortly after they were born – a nightmare scenario for any mother. What’s more, this policy is typically carried out early on in an effort to stop a mother cow bonding with their calf, or vice versa.
However, it doesn’t matter at which stage mother and calf are separated; the process is still stressful for the animals involved. In fact, the trauma of losing her babies seemingly stayed with Clarabelle even after her rescue, and it became clear to her rescuers that the experience had emotionally scarred her. Surprisingly, though, when the cow was admitted to her new home, her rescuers found out that she was actually pregnant once more – and she must have been terrified.
Weeks later, staff at Edgar’s mission noticed that the cow was acting stranger and stranger the closer she got to her due date. “Clarabelle’s behavior told us something was amiss,” Edgar’s Mission wrote on Vimeo. “Although her baby was not expected for another week, something was odd.”
Sure enough, the cow had given birth in secret. But the poor bovine had apparently come to associate humans and pregnancy with the pain of infant separation. And so, convinced that the people who had stolen her previous calves were going to come for her newborn, Clarabelle had tried to protect her baby the only way she knew how.
In a gut-wrenching act of maternal defiance, Clarabelle had actually hidden her newborn in the long grass of an isolated part of the farm. It was a heart-breaking reaction to her past trauma, but, perhaps, an amazing example of how intelligent and empathetic cows can be too.
“We found the calf on Valentine’s Day but she was actually born a couple of days before,” Ahern revealed on the Edgar’s Mission video “Finding Valentine.” The baby cow was, of course, named after the day she was discovered on. But the name also commemorates the incredible love Clarabelle showed for her little calf.
“We almost stood on a tiny bundle of brownness, ever so carefully hidden in the tall grass and camouflaged by fallen logs,” Edgar’s Mission wrote. “But this was no newborn calf; fully clean and dry was she, along with her umbilical cord – no afterbirth in sight.”
According to renowned animal behaviorist and cattle expert, Dr. Temple Grandin, “the fear memories of cattle can never be deleted.”
Although Valentine was safe at Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary, Clarabelle’s separation anxiety was understandable. And her motherly nature proves that, although people think that cows are stupid, they are actually intelligent creatures with long memories. In fact, research has shown that these animals can even develop friendships and grudges within their own social circles.
Pictures of Clarabelle and -a much bigger- Valentine can be found on Edgar’s Mission’s Facebook page, where you can also learn more about the charity and the work they do.
Watch Clarabelle’s story n the video below, and please SHARE your reaction to this mother’s instinct in the comments section below.
Well done, Clarabelle! 🙂