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Hi Cowboy Bob,

I have just purchased a 3 year old cow from a rescue centre, and I am planing to put her with my 7 year old paint named Apple. I bought Claire Voyant (the cow) to become a pasture buddy for my horse because my other horse, Molly, just passed away a few weeks ago. Do you think that my cow will become obedient like Apple, or will she be like all regular cows? And is it possible to halter a cow?

Thank you so much for your time and your site is #1

J. H.
Alberta, Canada


Cowboy Bob's-eye view of a cattle drive If you remember that cattle tend to be rather stupid compared to horses, you'll be well on your way to working with that bovine. (I can already hear a bunch of cattle breeders getting ready to string me up for saying that, but having worked with both beef and dairy cattle, I still think it's true!) Cattle are generally slow, plodding critters that readily follow a bell cow -- or even a bell without the cow. They tend to be creatures of habit that like to follow a regular routine, especially where food is involved. On the plus side, they tend to be more forgiving than horses. Poke a cow with a cattle prod and it may or may not decide to move. Poke a horse with that same prod, and he just might kick you to death!

Thousands of cattle are halter-trained for the show ring every year, and I don't see any reason yours should be different. In fact, if you're of a mind to, and have a lot of patience, you might even be able to train it for the saddle! (See the end of my Q&A #278 -- What kinds of horses did cowboys use?.) Bear in mind that cattle tend to be much heavier than horses, so it usually is harder to push a cow around than it is a horse.

If you haven't done so already, take a look at Q&A #270 -- Is it safe to pasture our horses with a heifer? -- for a few comments on possible health concerns.

My biggest worry would be over whether or not the cow has been dehorned. Even a friendly little nudge by the cow's head can be fatal to a horse if the cow still has those pointy projections. This summer, I saw a huge Highland bull die in mere minutes after a quick jab of the horns by another bull. I'm a strong supporter of dehorning calves. A huge set of horns may look impressive, but I personally don't think it's worth the risk to both humans and other livestock.

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