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At the risk of reporting something that is already common knowlege, and even if it weren’t, which you would already have gleaned from the title of this post, cows and sheep are different.

I will not get into the intricate analysis of which of these animals are tastier to eat, as I haven’t eaten either since way before some of you were born, which is simultaneously upsetting and inspiring to me. Whippersnappers! they read it!

But that’s not the point.

As you may have heard, I went on this crazy bikeride recently. So crazy that I am still sporting a handy calves-to-ankles tan, and still have thighs of steel. Worry not, they promise to become copper or some other softer metal in the near future. Basically, I rented a bike, rode a long time, and then returned it.

In the meantime, I spent a lot of time thinking. I talked to people sometimes, and sometimes not, drank a whole bunch of coffee and thought. One of my many observations was about cows and sheep. I went to college in New England, where we kind of had both, but there were certainly more sheep. I’m from Brooklyn, without a lot of livestock background. I noticed the following about sheep. They’re docile, they smell earthy and worse, they grouse around on the ground and baaah. Cows have improbably skinny legs, never baah and sometimes sit down just because they feel like it. We used to say that sheep only sit down when it’s going to rain. (Anyone know if this is true?)

But the main difference I found between sheep and cows (or cows and sheep, if you prefer) on this trip was the way they regard a moving vechicle (regardless of what kind of vehicle it is).

Cows do this:


or this:

cows, as far as the eye can see

Basically, they all act like they’ve seen this guy:


They stop. They stare. They check you out. Sometimes a whole train of them (do cows travel in trains? herds? flocks? I jest, partially) will not cross the road because you are too interesting and they want to check you out and see what you’re up to.

Sheep, on the other hand, do a whole lot of this:


Sometimes, if you are far enough away and have a big enough zoom, they might stand still, like this:


Or munch on a field where they aren’t supposed to be (but what do you do when you see sheep where they don’t belong? Is there some kind of sheepbusters I should phone? Protocol? anyone?)

little lost sheep (freshly shorn)

But for the most part, they act like they’ve seen this guy (and can’t read the small print!):


Essentially, they flee. They often run in the same direction as you, but regardless, they will run. In a flat panic. Sheep often jump out of their enclosures, but seldom jump back in, they just get scared, and pound the earth with their hollow-sounding hooves.

I like to think I’m more like a cow. Soulful, pensive, curious, and stand my ground. But sometimes I worry that I’m more sheeplike. Skittish, jumpy.

I’ve never seen a cross between a cow and a sheep, but I like to think it would be thoughtful and have just enough smarts to get itself out of trouble. Maybe that’s who I’ll be, a coop. Or a show. Or maybe I’ll be an entirely different animal. I can’t speak to their personality, but they do look nice in this light.

deer in a field

Also, there’s road improvement afoot in New Zealand, is probably good for people traversing the nation, top to bottom. I’m not sure the cows care, though they are curious. And the sheep? Well, they’ve already run away.