The Steer’s Pincushion Nose


The day when curiosity was the calf’s downfall.

Cows look dumb and lumber slowly but believe it or not, they are extremely curious. One day as a child, my sister,cousin and I sat on the edge of a stream to eat a picnic, realizing to late that a herd of cattle surrounded us on three sides to get a closer look at us. My heart was pounding as we gathered up our lunch, huddled closely together and facing the cattle, slowly edged away. I swear those steers followed us every step of the way, never taking their eyes off us. It was an eerie experience, the stuff of nightmares.

The old saying “curiosity killed the cat, should really say ” curiosity killed the cow”. Cows, calves and steers must be extremely bored because they generally investigate any foreign object or creature which finds itself in their domain. Unfortunately cattle explore small creatures by nudging them with their noses. This is a stupid habit when investigating a porcupine.

After encountering a porcupine, our poor calf couldn’t eat because he had thirty of forty long, barbed quills embedded in his nose. A dog can be held down, but a 1,000 lb. calf is not as easy to restrain. We tried, ropes and all our kids to hem him in but it was completely ineffective. Finally my husband opened one gate and pinned the calf in by swinging the gate back against the fence. Several kids pushed against the gate , two others pulled on ropes near his head and Michael attempted to pull out the quills. It was an exercise in futility as the calf was still able to toss and shake his head in pain. The only thing that brought him relief was when we pushed his nose into the huge tank of cold water in the corral.

Finally we admitted defeat and called the local large animal vet. Of course she tranquilized him, froze his nose and pulled the quills out effortlessly, though kids still pushed all their weight against the restraining gate and pulled on ropes while Michael held him in a head lock. Luckily the vet was so amused by our kids theatrics and comments that she gave us a discount.


10 thoughts on “The Steer’s Pincushion Nose

  1. Loved it! Poor calf. You know when I see your post in my reader and look at the pictures I do not even have to scroll to see who posted the post. I know it is you. How many memories you bring back to my heart. You do not know how much I thank you for doing that. Sometimes my heart longs for those days. God Bless, SR


  2. Melanie I live on a dairy farm, the first experience the children had of meeting a cow was a giant Friesian she came up to the fence and started licking my daughters boot. We fell in love with them, I paint pictures of them, they are so peaceful to watch from our deck. Mind you, I would not like to be cornered in a barn with an over protective mummy cow….that is the stuff of nightmares. Thanks for the delightful read.


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